Panthers are looking for some home comfort
Team manager Carl Johnson believes Panthers are heading into a defining spell in their SGB Premiership season.
The city club have completed only four league meetings so far in their top-flight return, but they now face a crucial period of four successive home outings this month.
It’s a run - starting with a date against Belle Vue tonight (Thursday, 7.30pm) – which Johnson feels will be pivotal in shaping their campaign.
East Anglian rivals Ipswich (another club owned by Keith Chapman and promoted into the SGB Premiership for 2019) then arrive at Alwalton on Monday (7.30pm) with clashes against Poole (May 23) and King’s Lynn (May 27) following.
And, in a league where each team races 24 meetings in total, it means Panthers will have a third of their 12 home outings in the two-and-a-half weeks ahead.
Johnson said: “It might only be May but this run of home meetings is going to be hugely important for us.
“If we can get ourselves into a winning streak we are going to establish ourselves towards the top of the table and put ourselves in a great position to make the play-offs.
“Picking up results at home is essential and we’re disappointed to have already dropped points to King’s Lynn in a meeting I felt we should have won.
“It’s such a small league and short season that we can’t afford to slip up on our own track too many times.
“Four home meetings in a row is not only a good opportunity for us to pick up points, it should also help the boys get into top form as well.”
Panthers are gunning for revenge in the first of those fixtures after already falling to three defeats against Belle Vue this season.
They were beaten home and away by the Aces in the season-opening Premiership Supporters’ Cup and then fell to a 51-39 loss at the National Speedway Stadium in a league clash 10 days ago.
And that is followed by a mouth-watering showdown against an Ipswich side who have started well in the top tier.
“We certainly don’t want to see Belle Vue celebrating again,” added Johnson. “It’s happened three times already and we definitely owe them one. We could have won both meetings against them in the cup and we probably should have got closer than we did at their place in the league.
“They have top riders who love our track, but the same applies to virtually every team in the league in all honesty.
“We then have a big derby on Monday which I’m sure will attract a big crowd and that’s definitely one we need to win.
“We still haven’t had all seven riders firing at the same time and hopefully that will now happen.
“The boys are also well aware the mechanical issues need to be sorted because it’s costing them money and us points.”
Johnson yesterday described Danish racer Lasse Bjerre as being ‘50/50’ ahead of the clash with Belle Vue.
Bjerre missed the club’s loss at Swindon after suffering a shoulder injury in a weekend fixture for his SGB Championship club Newcastle.
Panthers will operate the rider replacement facility if Bjerre is not passed fit.