MEETING REPORT: Nicholls stars again in another pleasing away display
Peterborough Panthers owner Ged Rathbone reckons many people will already be changing their opinions of his team - after another pleasing away display.
The city side collected an SGB Championship point last night (May 4) when being beaten 48-42 at Edinburgh. It followed hot on the heels of a fine 45-45 draw at reigning champions Sheffield the previous evening.
And number one Scott Nichols has been the star turn in both meetings, piling up a whopping 17+1 at Edinburgh from a full seven-ride shift after also slamming in double-figures 24 hours earlier.
He completed a fine Friday showing with a crucial second place in the final race at Armadale to ensure Panthers were rewarded for a battling effort as they recovered from a slow start and being 10 points down at one stage.
“I already think a few people are changing their opinions about us being in the bottom three,” said Rathbone after the showdown in Scotland.
“We said all along we felt we were capable of picking up points on the road and three of them in two nights proves that.
“Not many teams will go to these two places and get something but while we’ve picked up two decent results, we know we could probably have done better still.
“One thing that’s clear is that we have seen the true Scott Nicholls over the last two nights. Performances like this are what we expect of him and also what he expects of himself.
“His technical ability and team riding were brilliant and we couldn’t have asked for any more from him.”
Panthers, without Danish pair Ulrich Ostergaard and Emil Grondal due to meetings in their homeland, started poorly at Edinburgh.
They found themselves eight points down after just three races but hit back with an awarded 5-1 in heat five when Edinburgh man Mark Riss was excluded after hitting the deck while battling for victory with Nicholls.
The hosts replied instantly through number one Ricky Wells and young Swede Joel Andersson before tactical substitute Nicholls inspired a 4-2 for Panthers in heat seven.
But Andersson and Josh Pickering slammed in a 5-1 in the next contest to take the Edinburgh lead into double-figures and the hosts looked in command at that point.
However, a series of shared races – interrupted only by another Nicholls-led 4-2 in heat 11 – kept Panthers in touch before Michael Palm Toft and captain Simon Lambert slammed in a valuable 5-1 in the penultimate race to cut the deficit to just four points. Palm Toft had managed only one point from three rides before that well-timed return to form.
And Panthers clinched a consolation league point as Nicholls followed in rival number one Wells – a man he had denied a maximum when they clashed in heat 13 – in the decider.
Nicholls received good support from improving Finnish ace Nike Lunna, whose 11-point haul was a clear best in his first season with the club.
Skipper Lambert also contributed solidly at a track which doesn’t suit his riding style, while guest Carl Wilkinson also battled hard despite not having his first-choice equipment. But reserve Tom Bacon struggled with just one point.
Panthers now face a run of three successive home meetings. They entertain Workington on Friday (May 11), host Edinburgh on Sunday (May 13) and then take on Newcastle on Saturday, May 19.
EDINBURGH: Ricky Wells 13+1, Erik Riss 9, Mark Riss 8, Josh Pickering 6+4, Joel Andersson 6+1, Matt Williamson 4, Max Ruml 2
PANTHERS: Scott Nicholls 17+1, Nike Lunna 11, Simon Lambert 5+1, Michael Palm Toft 5+1, Carl Wilkinson (guest) 4+1, Tom Bacon 0, Rider replacement for Ulrich Ostergaard.