Peterborough Panthers were branded ‘shambolic’ after slumping to their heaviest defeat of 2018 - in one of their biggest meetings of the season.
The city side were spanked 59-31 at soggy Scunthorpe in the opening leg of their SGB Championship KO Cup semi-final last night (October 5) as their trophy defence suffered a crushing blow.
Team boss Carl Johnson refused to use a catalogue of injury problems (Panthers were only able to track three of their own riders) or tough conditions (much of the meeting was completed in rain) as excuses for such a dismal display.
The bulk of Panthers’ points came from guest number one Tero Aarnio and skipper Simon Lambert.
Finnish racer Aarnio roared to three heat victories in his 11-point haul while Lambert battled to 9+2 at a track which certainly isn’t among his favourites.
But the remaining members of the away side were well below par – none more so than Michael Palm Toft who contributed just one point at the venue he called home for almost five seasons during his British career.
Teenage whizzkid Drew Kemp could also only manage a single point when guesting at reserve despite piling up paid 14 when helping his regular club, Ipswich, win at the Eddie Wright Raceway in August.
Fellow guest Theo Pijper managed 4+1 and Ulrich Ostergaard contributed five points from as many riders during a night to forget for Panthers.
Their only heat advantage came when Aarnio triumphed in the 11th instalment with Lambert back in third place.
But that failed to trigger a rousing finish as Panthers were then on the receiving end of 5-1s in three of the last four races.
“There was no passion, no effort, no will to win and no belief,” snapped angry team boss Johnson. “In fact it was shambolic.
“We’ve been so consistent all season and have now turned in a truly shocking performance in one of our biggest meetings.
“Two riders have scored 20 points between them – and the other four have only managed 11 which is clearly nowhere near good enough.
“We’ve said all along that nothing is won in July and August. September and October are the months when the trophies are usually decided and unfortunately it’s at this time that we have allowed our form to slip.
“We could hide behind the excuse of injuries after losing three hugely important parts of our team in Scott (Nicholls), Bradley (Wilson-Dean) and Tom (Bacon) who were all match-winners for us.
“We could also blame the weather as it rained all night and at any other track in the country I think the meeting would have been called off.
“Riders were having to use a tear off after going from the pits on the third bend round to the tapes to start a race.
“But we have to face up to the fact that our performance was nowhere near good enough despite those circumstances.
“It’s been a bad night – a really, really bad night – but I always warn people not to write us off. There is still a second leg to come and the tie is not over.”
Not only do they face a huge task to turn the KO Cup clash around in the second leg at the East of England Arena on Saturday, October 13, they must also raise themselves for their big SGB Championship play-off semi-final this weekend.
They travel to Rye House to face Lakeside tonight (October 6, 7pm) in the first leg ahead of an Alwalton return clash tomorrow (October 7, 5pm).
Panthers have been forced into a change of plan for their guest at number one. Initial choice Aaron Summers is injured, so they have turned to Ipswich man Nico Covatti instead.
Jordan Stewart steps in at reserve and it is rider replacement for Bradley Wilson-Dean with Emil Grondal expected to be fit after missing the Scunthorpe drubbing with a hand problem.
“We have to put last night out of our minds and make sure we come out firing against Lakeside,” added.
“The forecast for today in Hertfordshire is terrible so I wouldn’t be surprised to see tonight’s first leg called off.
“But if it does go ahead we need to make sure we bring our ‘A’ game individually and collectively. We cannot simply allow such a good season to slip away from us.”
SCUNTHORPE: Jake Allen 13+2, Jason Garrity 12+1, Gino Manzares 10+4, Steve Worrall 9, Kyle Howarth (guest) 8+2, Stefan Nielsen 7, Danny Phillips 0
PANTHERS: Tero Aarnio (guest) 11, Simon Lambert 9+2, Ulrich Ostergaard 5, Theo Pijper (guest) 4, Drew Kemp (guest) 1+1, Michael Palm Toft 1, Rider replacement for Emil Grondal.