Team boss Carl Johnson is backing Panthers to come through their most important test of the season – despite being without their number one.
That’s the significance the city club are placing on their SGB Championship KO Cup quarter-final second leg at Scunthorpe tomorrow night (Friday, 7.30pm).
The meeting was initially set to be held last Friday only to be postponed due to a bad weather forecast, but the hasty re-staging means they go into battle without top talent Jack Holder, who is racing in the last round of the World Under 21 Championship Final in the Czech Republic.
Panthers are still hot favourites to reach the semi-finals as they boast an 18-point aggregate advantage following the first leg back in June, but they can’t afford to be complacent after suffering a 53-37 league loss at Scunthorpe in an August clash when also without Holder.
They were only allowed to draft in a National League rider to guest for him on that occasion, but their entitled to a like-for-like replacement this time and have opted for Glasgow man Richie Worrall.
Johnson said: “It’s a massive meeting and one we’re determined to win. We don’t just want to scrape through on aggregate.
“We’ll remind the boys of the late collapse we had the last time we were at Scunthorpe, but I’m confident there won’t be a repeat.
“We had Chris Harris missing that day as well as Jack. We’ve got a full seven-man team this time and Richie is a capable guest who absolutely flies round Scunthorpe.
“The boys could not be more determined to pick up another piece of silverware after winning the Fours.
“They’re winning meetings and there is a good buzz around the place at the moment.”
The KO Cup tie is the first of three meetings in as many days for Panthers.
They hit the road again on Saturday when travelling to Workington for one of their three remaining league meetings.
Holder is again absent for that clash in Cumbria with Redcar man Charles Wright stepping in at number one.
Holder returns when Panthers entertain Edinburgh at the East of England Arena on Sunday, 5pm.
The Monarchs were tipped to struggle this year, but defied those predictions to reach the semi-finals of the play-offs where they were beaten by Ipswich.
Johnson added: “Workington can be a difficult place to go, but they’ve got injury problems and it is a track that most of our guys like.
“We’ve won four league meetings in a row and want that run to continue for as long as possible. We’ll hope to get four points up there and then put in another good performance against Edinburgh.
“We’ll need to be at our best in that one. They have plenty of riders who always seem to score well at our track.”