MEETING REPORT: Panthers storm back to the top of the table

Scott Nicholls.
Scott Nicholls.
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Peterborough Panthers issued another statement of SGB Championship intent by returning to the top of the table after ending the perfect home record of play-off rivals Scunthorpe last night (June 15).

The city team roared to a 50-40 triumph at the Eddie Wright Raceway which was inspired by high-scoring showings from former Scorpions man Michael Palm Toft and reserve revelation Tom Bacon.

Simon Lambert.

Simon Lambert.

Danish star Palm Toft dropped only one point – in the first of his five outings – while Bacon racked up 12+2 during the best display of his career. There were also valuable contributions from number one Scott Nicholls, Ulrich Ostergaard and recent signing Bradley Wilson-Dean as Panthers slammed in seven advantages in the space of nice heats to clinch victory with a race to spare.

It meant they continued their fine away form which has seen them collect at least a point in every league outing on their travels so far in 2018 – a record that understandably pleases team boss Carl Johnson.

He said: “We told everyone in the winter that we felt we had assembled a team capable of getting results on the road and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

“We drew at Sheffield (when we probably should have won) and picked up a point at two really tough tracks in Edinburgh and Glasgow. To follow up those efforts with a win at Scunthorpe is terrific.

Michael Palm Toft.

Michael Palm Toft.

“They are one of the teams who were much more strongly fancied than ourselves. We’d have been happy with a point before the meeting started so to come away with four is a huge bonus.

“Scunthorpe are suffering with injury problems at the moment, but they had a quality guest at number one in Rory Schlein. We’ve also had to cover injuries ourselves and it’s just something you have to work around in speedway.

“We’re not going to get too excited, though. League titles aren’t won in June and we have to ensure we keep doing what we’re doing with more than half of the season still ahead. “

Panthers conceded 4-2s in three of the first five races at Scunthorpe with a Bacon-inspired 4-2 in heat two providing their only positive outcome in the opening third of the contest. But business soon picked up for the men in red and black as they were the dominant team for the remainder of the meeting.

They also benefitted from a piece of good fortune in heat six when Schein retired on the opening lap before Ostergaard got the better of Jason Garrity leaving the final bend to earn a 4-2.

A two-point deficit then became a two-point lead when Palm Toft and Wilson-Dean kept Garrity at bay to bank a seventh heat 5-1 and another 4-2 followed thanks to the excellent Bacon’s victory and a valuable Ellis Perks third place in the eighth instalment.

Panthers’ advantage was wiped out by a full house from the hosts in heat nine before they responded impressively courtesy as Palm Toft took the flag in a 4-2 with Bacon and Nicholls then bagging a 5-1 in the 11th contest after both men steamed past Garrity.

Scunthorpe sent Schlein out as a tactical substitute in heat 12, but he was guilty of a starting offence which led to him incurring a 15-metre handicap or the re-run.

And while he did succeed in overhauling out-of-sorts Panthers captain Simon Lambert, the hosts could only manage a 4-2 courtesy of Jake Allen’s success.

That still left them four points adrift and there was no way back as Panthers closed out a pleasing victory.

Nicholls took the flag in a 4-2 in heat 13 before star duo Palm Toft and Bacon fittingly sealed the points with a 5-1 in the penultimate contest. Palm Toft added a fourth victory to his collection in a shared finale to clinch all four available league points.

Johnson added: “To be successful on the road you need a couple of riders really firing and we had that.

“Tom rode out of his skin tonight. It’s a magnificent achievement for an away reverse to drop just one point to an opponent in five rides.

“He’s had a couple of tough meetings lately and has been a bit upset to be taken out of some of his rides, but I challenged him to come out fighting and he definitely did that.

“Tofty was absolutely awesome again. The track was surprisingly slick and that suits him down to the ground.

“The other boys all picked up points and it was a really pleasing all-round effort.”

Panthers step away from their final league campaign tomorrow (June 17) when switching their attention to advancing to the latter stages of the SGB Championship Shield.

They entertain East Anglian rivals Ipswich in their remaining Southern Group clash, 5pm, in the knowledge that victory will secure a semi-final spot.

SCORES

SCUNTHORPE: Josh Auty 14, Jake Allen 8+2, Rory Schlein (guest) 8, Jason Garrity 7, Danny Phillips 3, Jordan Stewart (guest) 0, Rider replacement for Stefan Nielsen.

PANTHERS: Michael Palm Toft 14, Tom Bacon 12+2, Scott Nicholls 9+1, Ulrich Ostergaard 7, Bradley Wilson-Dean 5+1, Simon Lambert 2, Ellis Perks.