Peterborough Panthers win a thriller after fairytale final heat from Hans Andersen
Team boss Carl Johnson hailed the performance and commitment of captain Hans Andersen following a thrilling Peterborough Panthers success last night (May 23).
The Danish star led the way with an 11+1 haul which featured a hat-trick of crucial victories as the city men edged out Poole 46-44 in a dramatic SGB Premiership clash at the East of England Arena.
And you won’t see a better advert for British speedway all season than this action-packed contest which was heart-stopping and nail-biting in equal measure - never more so than when Andersen and Charles Wright earned a 4-2 in a last-heat decider.
The two sides went into that race locked together at 42-42 but thanks to the fence-brushing brilliance of Andersen (who took the widest line possible to zoom round rival number one Jack Holder) and the never-say-die determination of Wright (who sped back past Pirates captain Josh Grajczonek leaving the final bend of the last lap to secure the all-important third place) they emerged victorious.
It was a second league win of the season for Panthers - gained against the same opponents and by an identical scoreline as the first last month.
Johnson said: “it was a meeting I felt we had to win - and we just about got ourselves over the line.
“We didn’t manage to build the sort of lead we wanted against a Poole team who have been making excellent comebacks this season. They did that again but we were in front when it really mattered after heat 15.
“Hans showed what a class act he is just by being here and then riding in the way he did.
“He put the club first over his own individual ambitions by riding for us rather than in the Danish Championship semi-final.
“I saw a few comments on social media saying that he should have been one of the riders we released when making our changes earlier this week. That just shows how little some of these keyboard warriors know about the sport!
“Hans might have had a tough time with machinery this season but he showed what he is all about with a great performance capped off by an incredible ride in heat 15.”
Panthers’ success was achieved despite a nightmare return to the club for new signing Scott Nicholls, who could only contribute two points from four rides.
Fellow new recruit Josh Bates fared better as he collected five points at reserve - a tally matched by his bottom-of-the-order partner Aaron Summers.
Bradley Wilson-Dean climbed back into the main body of the team with an impressive paid eight which featured a hard-fought success over Holder in the opener.
Wright contributed paid 11 in another pleasing performance from him while Rohan Tungate failed to win a race but did play his part in two full-houses. He watched the back of Summers in heat seven before following Andersen through in heat 13.
Panthers were also helped by a crash for Poole top-scorer Brady Kurtz, who briefly held the Alwalton track record this season, in that 13th instalment.
Kurtz was excluded with Andersen and Tungate both roaring past Holder (who had led at the time of the spill in the initial staging) to claim a 5-1 in the re-run.
Kurtz had earlier racked up 10 points which included a victory as a tactical substitute in heat 11 when slamming in a 5-1 with Holder, but he suffered a shoulder injury when hitting the deck that prevented him from taking part in the finale.
Another maximum return followed in heat 12 for Poole as a Nicholls’ retirement on the last lap allowed visiting guest Danny King through to follow in Nico Covatti.
Panthers saw a six-point cushion turn into a two-point deficit after those races, but were back in front after heat 13.
That soon changed as Poole reserve guest Dimitri Berge won a penultimate contest in which they had to settle for a 4-2 as Wright snatched second place by passing Grajczonek on the last lap - and the Panthers man repeated that feat moments later to help wrap up victory in the dramatic decider.
Johnson added: “Scott is obviously disappointed, but it’s not a concern for me as I know he’ll soon be scoring points.
“Josh was on the pace all night and chipped in with valuable points at reserve which is exactly what we expected him to do.
“It was a much more consistent performance from us as a team than we have been producing and hopefully we can now kick on.”
Panthers will seek another home success when hosting King’s Lynn in a local derby clash on Bank Holiday Monday (March 27, 5pm).
PANTHERS: Hans Andersen 11+1, Charles Wright 10+1, Bradley Wilson-Dean 7+1, Rohan Tungate 6+3, Aaron Summers 5, Josh Bates 5, Scott Nicholls 2.
POOLE: Jack Holder 10+1, Brady Kurtz 10, Nico Covatti 7+1, Dimitri Berge (guest) 7, Josh Grajczonek 6, Danny King (guest) 4+2, Richie Worrall 0.