It certainly wasn’t a memorable meeting and it definitely wasn’t a vintage performance, but it sure was a hugely important victory gained by Peterborough Panthers yesterday (September 9).
The table-topping city team made almost certain of their place in the SGB Championship play-offs by battling to a 47-43 victory against Berwick at the East of England Arena.
Panthers produced a backs-to-the-wall effort after losing number one Scott Nicholls and reserve Tom Bacon to what are likely to be season-ending injuries in recent days.
While they provided fewer race-winners (seven compared to Berwick’s eight) and only matched the number of heat advantages (both sides claimed five), they crucially emerged victorious.
Guest number one Thomas Jorgensen proved be an able deputy for broken ankle victim Nicholls with a top-scoring 11+1 haul – a performance which will almost certainly earn the Dane, who rides for Redcar at this level, further outings in red and black.
And chosen reserve stand-in Jordan Stewart – another Redcar racer - contributed a valuable five points as he filled the void left by Bacon’s serious back injury.
He was actually the lowest scorer as Panthers boasted solidity throughout the order when not only overcoming their double injury blow but also taking to their own track for the first time in five weeks.
It could have been a recipe for disaster, but it turned into a job well done – much to the satisfaction of back-on-song skipper Simon Lambert who delivered the heat 14 triumph which inspired a 4-2 and sealed Panthers’ success .
The fact Berwick got away with a consolation point after a 4-2 of their own in the finale was of little concern as Lambert said: “It was just about getting the win – whether it was by one point or 20 points didn’t matter.
“It’s really tough to lose Scott and Tom to injury but we were able to put seven men out on the track and everyone contributed well.
“On a personal level I’m happy to be back scoring points again and it was good to get the win in heat 14 that sealed our victory.
“We were tipped to finish near the bottom of the league this year, but we’re still here at the top despite a lot of things going against us.
“It’s a huge honour for me to captain of this club and I really want to be able to lift a trophy at the end of the season – for the management, for ourselves as riders, for the injured lads and for the fans.”
There is a decent chance of that happening with Panthers still in the KO Cup quarter-finals and SGB Championship Shield semi-finals in addition to leading the chase for the league title.
They were never behind against Berwick, but twice saw leads wiped out before eventually establishing control.
Middle-order men Bradley Wilson-Dean and Michael Palm Toft slammed in a 5-1 in heat three to open up the first advantage after a couple of shared races to being proceedings.
But the same Panthers duo were then on the receiving end of a full house from Bandits pair Kevin Doolan and Aaron Summers two races later.
The response was impressive as Emil Grondal led in countryman and guest Jorgensen for a 5-1 in heat six but it was followed by back-to-back 4-2s from the visitors.
Wilson-Dean and Palm Toft continued their run of 5-1s with another in their favour in heat nine and it was followed by a Jorgensen-inspired 4-2 in the next race as Panthers eased six points clear.
That cushion was clipped to four points when Summers took advantage of an error from returning Panthers man Ulrich Ostergaard to pinch heat 11 victory with Doolan back in third for a Berwick 4-2.
Two shared races followed – won by visiting riders Jye Etheridge and Summers – before Lambert took the flag in heat 14 as Panthers sealed their success.
Summers again impressed in the finale when seeing off Jorgensen while Etheridge picked Wilson Dean’s pocket for third place on the last lap – and few would argue Berwick deserved their point.
Panthers now complete their league schedule with two away tests. They have a top-of-the-table showdown at second-placed Workington - a team they lead by five points - on Friday (September 14) and could face a trip to Lakeside the following night although it is understood they would prefer to travel to the Hammers’ new Rye House base on Sunday (September 16).
They are without captain Lambert for the trip to Workington due to his wedding the following day. In-form Ipswich man Coty Garcia has been booked to guest, but Panthers are yet to finalise their plans for covering Nicholls and Bacon.
Lambert would obviously miss the Lakeside date were it to happen on Saturday as well.
Panthers go to Birmingham on Wednesday (September 12) for an inter-league challenge clash but their team line-up is still in the air.
Both clubs will track six-man sides with the sport’s bosses understood to be considering that format for all meetings next season.
PANTHERS: Thomas Jorgensen (guest) 11+1, Bradley Wilson-Dean 9, Simon Lambert 7+1, Michael Palm Toft 5+2, Emil Grondal 5+1, Ulrich Ostergaard 5+1, Jordan Stewart (guest) 5.
BERWICK: Aaron Summers 11, Jye Etheridge 9, Kevin Doolan 8, Theo Pijper 7+2, Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen 4, Dany Gappmaier 2, David Howe 2.