Another super show needed to beat the Witches
Team boss Carl Johnson hailed Panthers' finest performance of the season '“ then insisted they will instantly need to produce an even better one.
The city side oozed class as they slammed title-chasing Glasgow 55-37 in the SGB Championship last Sunday.
It was a second home success in the space of three days – following up a 53-39 victory against bottom side Berwick last Friday – and suggested Panthers can claw their way into play-off contention.
But they face another acid test this Sunday when welcoming second-placed Ipswich to the East of England Arena for an East Anglian derby (5pm) - and Johnson expects the Witches to prove an even more tough proposition for his side.
Johnson said: “That impressive result against Glasgow shows we’re a formidable team when we can get almost everyone firing – and I’m convinced we’re only going to get better as the season goes on.
“We know we’ve still got a lot of ground to make up in the table, but I can guarantee that no-one here will give up on reaching the play-offs until it is mathematically impossible.
“We all believe we can do it and we laid down a marker with the performance against Glasgow, but we will need to step it up again to beat Ipswich.
“They have a top five that can rival our own. It’s full of riders who are proven performers at our track.”
Panthers go into derby battle without number one Chris Harris due to his involvement in the Great Britain team for the World Cup.
Club bosses have turned to Sheffield star Josh Grajczonek to deputise for Harris, while breathing a sigh of relief that Jack Holder didn’t make the World Cup cut for Australia.
“It’s obviously not ideal for us to be without Chris,” added Johnson. “He’s made a big impact since coming into the club. But there is no greater honour for a sportsman than representing his country and it wouldn’t have surprised me if Jack was selected by Australia too.”
Ipswich are spearheaded by former British champion Danny King, from Huntingdon. He has been overlooked for the World Cup by GB boss Alun Rossiter.
Rory Schlein (who guested superbly for Panthers against Berwick last week), Justin Sedgmen, Cameron Heeps and Kyle Newman complete a powerful Witches top order.
Panthers pipped Ipswich 46-44 in their previous visit to Alwalton on Easter Monday, when Holder produced a magnificent ride in the final heat to keep Schlein and King at bay.
Panthers have re-arranged a trip to Redcar for next Thursday (July 6), when they will also be without Harris. It was postponed last month due to rain.
PANTHERS: Josh Grajczonek (guest), Bradley Wilson-Dean, Paul Starke, Ulrich Ostergaard, Jack Holder, Liam Carr, Tom Bacon.
IPSWICH: Danny King, Kyle Newman, Cameron Heeps, Justin Sedgmen, Rory Schlein, Connor Mountain, Nathan Greaves.