KO Cup semi-final is very much in the balance

Team boss Carl Johnson is backing Panthers to finish the job and set up a mouth-watering SGB Championship KO Cup final.

The city men take a 10-point aggregate advantage to Glasgow tonight (Thursday) for a re-arranged semi-final second leg showdown against the trophy holders.

Panthers triumphed 50-40 in the opening clash at the East of England Arena last Sunday with the return clash then postponed on Tuesday.

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But the job of setting up a showpiece clash against East Anglian rivals Ipswich is still only half-done.

“We’re obviously hoping that 10 points prove to be enough,” said Johnson. “It’s not quite the advantage that it looked like we might build at one stage on Sunday.

“We had a couple of bits of bad luck with Jack Holder retiring from a 5-1 and the two reserve boys both having crashes in later heats.

“We’ve gone well at Glasgow this season, but the tie is very much in the balance. We could probably have done with a few more points on the board to make it more comfortable.

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“If Glasgow start well, they could wipe out the deficit in a matter of three or four heats. But if we get on the front foot straight away, we can very quickly put the tie out of their reach - and that’s the goal.

“We have riders who are more than capable of winning races round there and the key will be avoiding last places.

“We can’t afford to allow them to build up any momentum. It’s a high-pressure night, but we know what is at stake.

“It has the makings of a brilliant final if we can get through. Two big derby meetings against Ipswich with a trophy at stake are bound to have plenty of spice.”

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Panthers are without reserve Tom Bacon, who underwent shoulder surgery on Monday. Ben Hopwood, of Newcastle, steps in as a guest.

They will again operate the rider replacement facility as Bradley Wilson-Dean is still laid low by a chest infection.

If Panthers succeed in reaching the final, the first leg will take place at the East of England Arena on Sunday with the return at Ipswich next Thursday (October 26).