Peterborough Panthers topple the Premiership leaders to guarantee a first play-off place for over a decade

Peterborough Panthers are through to the top-league play-offs for the first time since 2010 after toppling leaders Wolverhampton 49-41 at the East of England Arena last night (August 23).

By Nigel Pearson
Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 7:11 am
Updated Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 7:20 am
Danny King leads heat six for Panthers against Wolverhampton. Photo: David Lowndes.
Danny King leads heat six for Panthers against Wolverhampton. Photo: David Lowndes.

Panthers officially confirmed their top four finish in the Premiership after a thrilling contest which must rank amongst the best in recent years at the Showground.

Wolves arrived boasting a nine-match winning sequence which had started immediately after their previous visit to Alwalton in mid-June.

And the visitors looked very much capable of extending their run as they kept in touch throughout a pulsating contest and turned the meeting around to lead heading into the closing stages.

Panthers youngster Jordan Palin comes a cropped in heat two of the meeting with Wolverhampton. Photo: David Lowndes.

But the Panthers’ determination shone through, and a stunning Heat 15 5-1 from Hans Andersen and Chris Harris secured not only match victory, but also ensured the visitors would leave pointless.

Andersen dropped just two points from six rides in another high-scoring bonanza at reserve, whilst Harris was also integral to Panthers’ late revival as he bounced back from a last place in Heat 4.

The hosts had taken the lead one race earlier with a brilliant Heat 3 5-1 led by skipper Scott Nicholls, and with Michael Palm Toft re-passing Nick Morris for second place.

With guest Danny King opening up with two wins, the first of which was a fraction outside the track record, Panthers started well despite a Heat 2 fall for Jordan Palin when in third place – but there was a sign of things to come when Wolves youngster Leon Flint led Andersen for three laps in Heat 4 before the Dane forced his way through.

Action from heat one of Panthers v Wolverhampton. Panthers men are Danny King (red helmet) and Bjarne Pedersen (blue). Photo: David Lowndes.

Reserves Flint and Ryan Douglas were a major threat as the Wolves top-end surprisingly struggled, and after Morris defeated Harris in Heat 7 to narrow the gap to two points, Flint took the double scalp of Andersen and Bjarne Pedersen in the next race.

Wolves then turned the meeting completely when Morris and Luke Becker outgated King and Pedersen in Heat 10, and it was vital for Panthers that Harris took control of Heat 11 to keep them only two points down.

The home side came roaring back in a tremendous Heat 12 in which Douglas gated for the visitors only to be moved out by Andersen on bend four in a move which also allowed Palm Toft through for a 5-1.

And the thrills continued in Heat 13 with Harris being outgated before flying past Sam Masters and then switching inside Douglas to win on a circuit which was serving up racing from the top drawer.

Scott Nicholls leads the way for Panthers in heat three of the meeting against Wolverhampton. Photo: David Lowndes.

Panthers looked set to clinch the match in Heat 14 when Andersen and Nicholls hit the front, but Becker produced a fine ride to split the pairing and take it to a decider.

And in a stunning finale, Morris led before being passed by Andersen, who then took the line his opponent wanted with Harris finding a narrow gap on the outside to join his partner for a 5-1 to the delight of a bumper crowd.

Panthers boss Rob Lyon said: “It was always going to be tough, Wolverhampton are top for a reason, and they are a solid outfit – and to win and for them to go home with nothing was a special result for us.

“We had a little chat after Heat 10 and we knew we had inside gates in three of the last five races, which we needed to take advantage of.

“We really wanted it done and dusted before Heat 15 because we knew they’d have one and three, but we chose right, and sometimes you get heroes in meetings – certainly Hans and Bomber (Harris) were that tonight.

“That Heat 15 was a fantastic race, and it really keeps the top spot alive and kicking.”

With their play-off place now booked, the race for that top spot is very much on, although Panthers have to wait until next Thursday (Sept 2) to visit Ipswich in their next match, whilst Wolves have three more fixtures before that date.

Panthers are currently four points behind Wolverhampton who have ridden one more meeting.

PETERBOROUGH 49: Hans Andersen 16, Chris Harris 10+1, Scott Nicholls 9, Danny King 7, Michael Palm Toft 5+3, Bjarne Pedersen 2+1, Jordan Palin 0.

WOLVERHAMPTON 41: Ryan Douglas 9, Nick Morris 8+1, Broc Nicol 6+1, Leon Flint 6, Luke Becker 6, Rory Schlein 3+3, Sam Masters 3+1.