Peterborough Panthers’ smooth passage into the SGB Championship Shield semi-finals was soured by a serious smash involving Ulrich Ostergaard.
The Danish ace was taken to hospital complaining of back pain following a horror spill in the seventh heat of the city club’s 53-37 triumph against Ipswich at the East of England Arena.
Ostergaard collided with Witches man Nico Covatti leaving the fourth bend and was thrown violently from his bike before his body slammed into the fence, which was damaged by the impact.
The Southern Group fixture – which Panthers had to win to progress to the last four as the best runners-up from the initial stage – was held up for 55 minutes as Ostergaard was treated by track paramedics before being transferred to a county ambulance.
Fortunately, he appears to have avoided any lasting damage as team manager Carl Johnson said: “I went down to hospital after the meeting and they didn’t think there was anything seriously wrong.
“They were having a good look at him, but the early thought was it was just a case of suffering whiplash. He’ll have a bad headache too!
“It looked like he was knocked out for a time after the crash as he didn’t know where he was or what he was doing here. He was also complaining of back pain, but had movement in his arms and legs, which was very positive.
“It was a nasty crash, but we know that can happen in speedway and it was really pleasing the way everyone came together after we lost Ulrich.
“We knew it was a meeting we had to win and we did that pretty impressively in the end to get through to the semi-finals.
“The team spirit is fantastic and the boys are really getting dialled into the track now.”
Panthers were only four points ahead at the point of Ostergaard’s painful exit, but later surged clear of their East Anglian rivals to record their biggest home win of 2018.
The sides traded 4-2s in the opening two races with Scott Nicholls inspiring a smart Panthers start (albeit with the aid of a suspiciously unsatisfactory start which escaped the attention of referee Graham Reeve).
He and partner Ellis Perks held a 5-1 for 99.9 per cent of the opening contest only for leading Witches man Rory Schein’s last-gasp thrust to snatch second spot. Connor Mountain then claimed success as Ipswich emerged victorious from the clash of the rival reserves.
But Panthers eased back ahead when middle-order duo Michael Palm Toft and Bradley Wilson-Dean banked a 5-1 in the third instalment ahead of a run of four successive shared races. That included a smart Simon Lambert triumph when the meeting resumed with the re-run of heat seven following Ostergaard’s painful exit.
The run of deadlocks was broken in style when reserve Tom Bacon, still on a high from a stunning performance in the Friday league success at Scunthorpe, spearheaded a 5-1 as he and Perks both eased past Mountain.
Ipswich responded by deploying Schlein as a tactical substitute in heat nine and he duly breezed to victory in a re-run (after Palm Toft ploughed into the tapes) which ended in a dramatic 4-2 in favour of the visitors.
Schlein missed the drama in behind as partner Danny King – the winner of his opening two rides – nicked third place from Wilson-Dean in a blanket finish.
Ipswich sliced another two points from their deficit courtesy of another Schlein triumph in heat 11 but Panthers then took command with a hat-trick of 5-1s to progress in emphatic style.
Wilson-Dean and Bacon provided the first of them in heat 12 before Nicholls and Palm Toft both sped past Schlein in the next race. Palm Toft and Lambert then had the simple task of seeing off Ipswich guest Georgie Wood – a National League rider drated in with Michael Hartel involved in a long track meeting on the continent – in the penultimate contest.
Schlein completed his high-scoring personal display by beating Palm Toft and Nicholls in a shared finale, but Panthers’ work had already been done. They now join respective group winners Workington, Scunthorpe and Lakeside in the latter stages with the draw still to be made.
The city club’s attention switches back to their SGB Championship play-off bid this Thursday (June 21) when they travel to lowly Redcar.
The trip to the North East marks the halfway point of the league campaign for the table-topping locals.
PANTHERS: Michael Palm Toft 13, Scott Nicholls 11+2, Simon Lambert 9+1, Bradley Wilson-Dean 8+2, Tom Bacon 6+2, Ellis Perks 4+2, Ulrich Ostergaard 2 (withdrawn).
IPSWICH: Rory Schlein 15, Danny King 7, Connor Mountain 5, Nico Covatti 4+1, Georgie Wood (guest) 4+1, Cameron Heeps 1, Danyon Hume 1.