Rarely can a major meeting have been overshadowed quite so spectacularly by what happened before and after.
The first leg of an SGB Championship KO Cup semi-final involving Peterborough Panthers last night (October 15) was preceded by the surprise departure of senior club stalwart Trevor Swales and followed by a mighty bombshell aimed at one of the key figures in the sport from owner Ged Rathbone.
The meeting in between at the East of England Arena was also pretty entertaining as the city men eased to a 50-40 victory which wasn’t quite as emphatic as it looked like being for much of the evening.
Reserve Simon Lambert and former GP star Chris Harris were the star performers or Panthers in what could prove to be their final home meeting of the season – or possibly longer if the sorry current situation regarding the future is not resolved positively.
Panthers, again without Bradley Wilson-Dean due to a technicality regarding the sicknote he produced when ill for a Friday league fixture against Edinburgh, led from start to finish.
Lambert won the opening two heats – the first of them a 5-1 achieved with number one Jack Holder; the second of them a shared race – before a 4-2 inspired by skipper Ulrich Ostergaard in the third instalment stretched the hosts’ lead to six points.
It stayed that way during a series of four shared races although Panthers were seriously unlucky not to claim another 5-1 in heat six when Holder was hit by mechanical gremlins when leading on the final lap.
But two more full houses did soon arrive in successive races – and both of them featured Paul Starke as he followed in Lambert in the eighth contest and Ostergaard in the ninth heat.
Lambert superbly won his first four outings before seeing the glorious run ended by a last place in heat 10 when visiting duo Richie Worrall and Dan Bewley bagged a 5-1 of their own.
But Lambert was soon back in the groove when combining with Harris to great effect for a maximum return in the 11th instalment. That left Panthers 14 points to the good with the prospect of further gains to come, but Glasgow dug in for a hat-trick of 4-2s to trim the gap to just eight points.
Worrall saw off Starke in heat 12, Richard Lawson inflicted Harris’ only defeat in heat 13 when a late Holder mistake saw him surrender third place, and Bewley won a fine battle with Ostergaard in a re-run heat 14 following a Lambert spill.
But a brilliant Harris blast earned glory in the finale and partner Starke forced his way into third place to ensure Panthers signed off with a 4-2.
But will the 10-point cushion prove to be enough when they head to the Peugeot Ashfield Stadium for the second leg tomorrow (Tuesday, October 17)?
Owner Ged Rathbone said: “Glasgow are a very strong team and having any lead against them is pleasing.
“We tend to do pretty well up there. We ran them close when tracking a weakened side for our first visit this eason, and then went back with our full team and picked up a win.
“All the pressure is on Glasgow. It’s their home track and they will be racing in front of their fans. They have to pull the points back.
“We’ll battle as hard as we possibly can as we desperately want to set up an East Anglian derby against Ipswich in the final.”
Assuming the weather is kind and the second leg goes ahead as scheduled, the final is then earmarked for Thursday (October 19) and Sunday (October 22).
Ipswich will stage the first leg at Foxhall ahead of a return clash at the East of England Arena at the weekend.
PANTHERS: Simon Lambert 14+1, Chris Harris 14, Paul Starke 10+2, Ulrich Ostergaard 9+1, Jack Holder 3+1, Jack Parkinson-Blackburn (guest) 0, Rider replacement for Bradley Wilson-Dean.
GLASGOW: Richard Lawson 10, Richie Worrall 10, Dan Bewley 6+2, Jack Smith 6+2, Aaron Summers 4+1, James Sarjeant 4, Rider replacement for Nike Lunna.
1 - Lambert (61.5), Holder, Lawson, Sarjeant. 5-1, 5-1.
2 - Lambert (61.7), Sarjeant, Smith, Parkinson-Blackburn. 3-3, 8-4.
3 - Ostergaard (61.3), Worrall, Starke, Bewley. 4-2, 12-6.
4 - Harris (60.9), Summers, Smith, Parkinson-Blackburn. 3-3, 15-9.
5 - Lawson (61.3), Starke, Ostergaard, Sarjeant (ret). 3-3, 18-12.
6 - Lambert (62.6), Smith, Summers, Holder (ret). 3-3, 21-15.
7 - Harris (61.9), Worrall, Bewley, Parkinson-Blackburn. 3-3, 24-18.
8 - Lambert (62.9), Starke, Smith, Bewley. 5-1, 29-19.
9 - Ostergaard (62.6), Starke, Sarjeant, Summers. 5-1, 34-20.
10 - Worrall (62.7), Bewley, Holder, Lambert. 1-5, 35-25.
11 - Harris (63.2), Lambert, Lawson, Smith. 5-1, 40-26.
12 - Worrall (63.2), Starke, Sarjeant, Parkinson-Blackburn (fell). 2-4, 42-30.
13 - Lawson (63.4), Harris, Summers, Holder. 2-4, 44-34.
14 - re-run Bewley (62.5), Ostergaard, Smith, Lambert (fell/exc). 2-4, 46-38.
15 - Harris (62.5), Lawson, Starke, Worrall. 4-2, 50-40.