Peterborough Panthers enjoyed a winning start to the 2018 season last night (March 25) – and team boss Carl Johnson insisted there is a lot more to come.
The city team triumphed 46-44 against league newcomers Lakeside in an SGB Championship Shield clash at the East of England Arena.
They had looked set to record a handsome success when amassing a 12-point lead after 10 races, but the Hammers hit back with two 5-1s and a 4-2 in the closing stages.
Emil Grondal was the surprise star turn for Panthers with a paid 12-point haul on a night when new number one Scott Nicholls was the only home rider to fail to win a race.
His six team-mates all took the chequered flag with fellow new signing Nike Lunna’s victory in heat five providing his only points.
“It was all about starting the season with a win and we managed to do that,” said Johnson. “And it is clear from the performance there is a lot more to come from us.
“A lot of the Lakeside boys have already had meetings whereas it was the first outing of the season for the vast majority of our riders.
“Scott had a bit of an off-night while Nike was always going to find it tough in his first meeting back from a bad injury, but we were solid throughout and that is a good sign.
“Emil showed why we brought him back. He is a talent and he didn’t just score points from the front.
“That performance will do him a lot of good and hopefully he can keep it up.
“We’ll take positives from beating a good team who boast plenty of riders capable of going well at our track.”
Panthers hit the front thanks to a 5-1 from reserves Tom Bacon and skipper Simon Lambert in heat two before former captain Ulrich Ostergaard inspired a 4-2 with victory in heat four.
Lunna’s debut triumph in the next race quickly provided another gain and Panthers’ advantage reached double-figures when Lambert led home Grondal for a 5-1 in heat eight.
Lakeside enlisted Adam Ellis as a tactical substitute in heat nine and he helped them to a 4-2, but Grondal and Nicholls provided a smart response with another 5-1 in the next race.
But Panthers saw their 12-point cushion reduced to just two in the final four races as Lakeside roared back.
Visiting reserve Zach Wajtkneckt took the flag in a heat 12 5-1 and a 4-2 in the penultimate contest, although Michael Palm Toft’s second place in the latter race ensured Panthers emerged victorious.
But the margin of their success was cut to just two points when Hammers number one Nick Morris and Ellis slammed in a 5-1 over Grondal and Ostergaard in the finale.
Panthers return to action on Easter Sunday when hosting Ipswich at the East of England Arena (5pm).
Panthers: Emil Grondal 11+1, Ulrich Ostergaard 9, Michael Palm Toft 8, Simon Lambert 7+1, Scott Nicholls 4+3, Tom Bacon 4+1, Nike Lunna 3.
Lakeside: Nick Morris 11, Adam Ellis 10+2, Zach Wajtknecht 8+1, Richard Lawson 7, Kyle Newman 4+1, Ben Morley 4, Alfie Bowtell 0.