The Peterborough Panthers charge is really gathering pace.
A 52-40 triumph at Redcar last night (July 6) stretched the city side’s winning streak to four SGB Championship meetings.
It is a fine run which has seen them slash the gap between themselves and the play-off places by more than half.
They’re now within seven points of a Bears side, who they beat last night, who they face on three further occasions this month, and who currently occupy fourth spot in the standings.
And what made their biggest and best away triumph of 2017 all the more impressive was the fact it was gained without their regular number one (Chris Harris is off on international duty for Great Britain in the World Cup final tomorrow) and their influential skipper (Ulrich Ostergaard was a mid-afternoon drop-out with a sickness bug).
But guest Richie Worrall did a terrific job at the top of the order with a paid 13-point haul bettered only by the man who stepped in as skipper in the absence of Ostergaard.
Paul Starke reeled off four successive wins on his way to a 14-point return on a night when Panthers sealed victory with three races to spare and then sealed maximum points when Worrall followed in the irrepressible Jack Holder for a 5-1 in heat 13. Holder’s 11-point haul carried him past a century in his past eight Panthers meetings.
“It’s a great effort to win on the road without our own number one or our captain,” reflected team boss Carl Johnson.
“Paul stood in as skipper superbly. He really led by example, with some excellent support, in what was an almost perfect away performance.
“We took control of the meeting in the early races, saw off a brief rally from Redcar and then got the job done with plenty in hand.
“I said a few weeks ago that things could change quickly with a few victories and the boys have really stepped up, but we still need a lot more performances and results like this to really put the pressure on the teams in the top four.”
Panthers have been guilty of slow starts in many of their away outings this term, but they could hardly have been more dominant as they swooped for a second success of the year at the Media Prima Arena.
They won a KO Cup clash at the same venue back in April, but that triumph was nowhere near as emphatic as the repeat last night.
Four advantages in the opening five races eased Panthers into a 12-point cushion and their grip on the contest tightened when two Redcar riders were injured in the same spill.
Charles Wright (who was briefly knocked unconscious) and Danny Ayres (who was excluded and left nursing arm damage) were forced to withdraw following a seventh-heat crash when the former was taking a tactical ride.
Jonas B. Andersen then went in pursuit of double-points for the hosts in the re-run, but he was beaten by Starke with reserve Liam Carr, who contributed a fine seven points in his first away meeting for the club, collecting an unchallenged third place to secure a 4-4.
Redcar did rally with a couple of 4-2s to reduce their arrears to eight points, but Panthers soon kicked on again to finish the job.
Johnson added: “It is never nice to see riders hurt and we wish both Redcar boys all the best.
“I don’t think that crash was a major factor in the result, though. We had already built up a big lead by that point and I’m confident we would have gone on to win the meeting in any case.
“We had three riders score double-figures and that’s a great effort on the road. Another one would have done the same but for a crash and young Liam picked up some really important points at reserve.
“I think we would have won even more comfortably with Ulrich in the side. He loves the Redcar track and I’m sure he would have got far more than the four points his rides produced.
“We would probably have been talking about scoring 60 points if he was there.”
Panthers expect Ostergaard to be well enough to return for another tough away test tomorrow (July 8) when they visit second-placed Glasgow.
They are again without Harris, who represents Great Britain in the World Cup Final on the same night.
Ben Barker, part of the beaten Redcar side last night, is the rider club bosses have turned to as a guest. He’s a former Glasgow man and scored well at the Scottish venue recently.
REDCAR: Jonas B. Andersen 12+3, Ben Barker 9, Ellis Perks 7, Stuart Robson (guest) 5, Danny Ayres 3+1 (withdrawn), Fernando Garcia 2, Charles Wright 2 (withdrawn).
PANTHERS: Paul Starke 14, Jack Holder 11, Richie Worrall (guest) 10+3, Bradley Wilson-Dean 9+1, Liam Carr 7, Tom Bacon 1, rider replacement for Ulrich Ostergaard.