MEETING REPORT: Three wishes come true for Panthers promoter
The three wishes of Peterborough Panthers promoter Ged Rathbone all came true last night (July 15).
Not only did the club chief get the return to winning ways he felt was essential against Berwick at the East of England Showground, the 50-40 triumph came courtesy of a much-improved performance in front of a considerably bigger crowd.
It was a result that enabled Panthers to leapfrog their visitors into second place in the Premier League standings. They now sit just one point off the summit again with the outlook considerably rosier than it was a few days ago.
Captain Ulrich Ostergaard led the way with a fine 13-point haul while guest number one Simon Stead also powered into double-figures as Panthers closed in on his regular club, Sheffield, who currently set the pace.
It was an excellent display of character, as much as riding, as Panthers made amends for a surprise slip-up at the hands of struggling Scunthorpe four days earlier.
“I’m proud of the boys,” said Rathbone. “Berwick are riding high in the table and they are another big-track club who we knew would pose a threat at the Showground.
“We were under plenty of pressure to get things right after the defeat against Scunthorpe and we did it.
“The track was much more to the riders’ liking and they responded with a much better performance and result.
“It ranks as one of our most important wins of the season because we had to stop that little slump before it became anything more serious.”
There were a couple of milestone moments along the way for Panthers last night.
Local lad Tom Stokes - guesting for the injured Zdenek Holub again - collected a first-ever race win at Premier League level when starring in a 5-1 alongside reserve partner Ashley Morris in heat two.
Morris then marked his second appearance in Panthers’ colours with his first triumph when delivering a fine ride to take the chequered flag in heat 12.
The short-term recruit, who is already becoming popular with supporters thanks to a never-say-die style, had also starred in two 5-1s before that success.
His night did finish with him on the deck after taking a tumble in heat 14 and while he did initially require an ambulance ride back to the pits, he was soon given a clean bill of health.
Berwick pair Matt Wethers and Liam Carr were on a 5-1 at the time of the stoppage in the penultimate race, but Tom Perry managed to split them in the re-run to pocket the two points that clinched victory for Panthers.
That was Perry’s best contribution of a night in which he again showed glimpses of being capable of performing in the main body of the team.
It had been a tight contest for long periods with eight of the opening nine races ending in 3-3 deadlocks – a run which included the fastest time of the season (59.0) from Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen in heat three.
The exception to that rule was the second heat when Stokes and Morris excelled for the 5-1 that provided Panthers with a four point cushion they held until the 10th instalment.
It was halved at that point when impressive visiting rider Theo Pijper beat Stead for the second time to inspire a 4-2 for Berwick.
But the hosts quickly responded as Morris roared past Bandits number one Kevin Doolan and number five Thomas Jorgensen to follow in Ostergaard for a 5-1.
Ostergaard tasted his only defeat of the night in heat 13, but still helped Panthers extend their advantage with third spot as Stead came home in front to ensure a 4-2.
They then sealed victory as the penultimate race was completed at the third attempt before Stead provided the most exciting of finishes by pipping Jorgensen for second spot in the last few metres of the finale to apply a layer of 5-1 gloss along with Ostergaard.
Panthers’ next meeting is an East Anglian derby at Ipswich on Thursday (July 21).
PANTHERS: Ulrich Ostergaard 13, Simon Stead (guest) 11+1, Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen 8, Ashley Morris 7+2, Emil Grondal 5+2, Tom Perry 3+1, Tom Stokes 3.
BERWICK: Theo Pijper 12, Thomas Jorgensen 10+1, Matt Wethers 8+2, Liam Carr 7+1, Kevin Doolan 3+2, Daniel Gappmaier 0, Rider replacement for Seb Alden.