Home comforts are currently in short supply for Peterborough Panthers
The city racers suffered a second Showground slip-up in the space of three Premier League home meetings when being beaten 47-43 by Plymouth yesterday (June 28).
It was another slice of misery at the hands of a team who also dumped them out of the KO Cup a few days earlier, and a fourth Alwalton loss in all so far in 2015.
A mediocre home record is now threatening to cancel out the impact of their magnificent form on the road and scupper a title challenge. Panthers remain third in the standings but missed a glorious chance to close in on joint leaders Somerset and Edinburgh.
They will certainly need to perform better than yesterday, when four of their seven riders scored below their averages.
And Plymouth, twice narrow losers in the city in the League Cup and the opening leg of the KO Cup tie, took full advantage to pocket three league points and ensure a brilliant display by Michael Palm Toft was in vain.
He delivered a catalogue of thrilling victories in a 13+1 haul, but support from the majority of his team-mates was sadly lacking.
“It is not good enough,” stressed joint team boss Carl Johnson. “And we are not going to make excuses for it.
“Plymouth were the better team throughout and that’s why they led from start to finish.
“They had proved they can ride our track well in their previous visits this season and we knew we couldn’t afford to be below par.
“Unfortunately we were and paid the price, but one bad meeting doesn’t mean we are a bad team.
“We are still in a great position in the league and we are still looking at ways we can strengthen the side.
“We have also bounced back well from disappointing results before this season and we need to make sure we do that again.”
Captain Ulrich Ostergaard, teen talent Robert Lambert, second string Lewis Blackbird and debutant reserve Rafal Konopka were the Panthers men who failed to fire in track conditions that will have been slicker than desired.
The new Polish recruit endured a forgettable first appearance in Panthers colours with an exclusion and a retirement following a last place in heat two when he actually managed to complete a race.
They accounted for three of the nine last places picked up by Panthers - the same number of heat wins they managed on an afternoon when their starting was particularly poor.
Plymouth also boasted identical numbers (six heat wins and six last places) but it was their three 5-1s which proved to be the difference between the sides.
Skipper Kyle Newman led in top-scorer Jack Holder in the opening race before two former Peterborough men, Morten Risager and Sam Simota, combined to great effect in heat four.
That left the visitors eight points to the good but Panthers battled back into contention to reduce their arrears. They were only two points adrift following back-to-back 4-2s inspired by their main men, Palm Toft and guest Brady Kurtz, in heats nine and 10.
But, just as they threatened to hit top gear, they were knocked back down again as Holder and Newman both zoomed past out-of-sorts Ostergaard for a third Plymouth full house in heat 11.
And there was no way back from there for Panthers as they trailed by six points with four heats remaining. They did provide the last four race-winners, but only once (in heat 13) could they convert it into an advantage.
And that was particularly hard on Palm Toft whose exploits in the final two heats were worth the admission money alone as he scythed through from last to first.
He and Kurtz needed a 5-1 in the finale to snatch a draw, but the borrowed number one could not land a blow.
At least clashes against the worst two teams in the Premier League – Redcar and Scunthorpe – on the next two Sundays should allow Panthers to get their home form back on track.
READYPOWER PANTHERS: Michael Palm Toft 13+1, Brady Kurtz (guest) 9, Robert Lambert 6, Simon Lambert 5+1, Lewis Blackbird 5, Ulrich Ostergaard 5, Rafal Konopka 0.
PLYMOUTH: Jack Holder 11+2, Morten Risager 9, Kyle Newman 8+2, Sam Simota 7+3, Todd Kurtz 6, Ryan Fisher 5+2, Matt Williamson (guest) 1+1.
1 – re-run Newman (60.4), Holder, Blackbird, B. Kurtz. 1-5, 1-5.
2 - S. Lambert (61.5), Simota, Williamson, Konopka. 3-3, 4-8.
3 - re-run Fisher (60.4), R. Lambert, Palm Toft, Williamson (T. Kurtz exc tapes). 3-3, 7-11.
4 - Risager (61.0), Simota, S. Lambert, Ostergaard. 1-5, 8-16.
5 - Palm Toft (60.2), Newman, Holder, R. Lambert (ret). 3-3, 11-19.
6 – B. Kurtz (60.9), Risager, Blackbirrd, Simota. 4-2, 15-21.
7 - re-run Ostergaard (61.5), T. Kurtz, Fisher, Konopka (exc). 3-3, 18-24.
8 - Holder (61.6), Blackbird, S. Lambert, Simota. 3-3, 21-27.
9 - Palm Toft (62.0), Risager, R. Lambert, Williamson. 4-2, 25-29.
10 - re-run x2 B. Kurtz (61.4), T. Kurtz, Blackbird, Fisher. 4-2, 29-31.
11 - Holder (61.9), Newman, Ostergaard, Konopka (ret). 1-5, 30-36.
12 - R. Lambert (62.6), Simota, Fisher, S. Lambert. 3-3, 33-39.
13 - B. Kurtz (61.7), Risager, Ostergaard, Newman. 4-2, 37-41.
14 - Palm Toft (63.5), T. Kurtz, Simota, S. Lambert. 3-3, 40-44.
15 - Palm Toft (63.5), Holder, Newman, B. Kurtz. 3-3, 43-47.