Peterborough Panthers probably wish they could race against Redcar in every meeting.
The city team saw off the Bears 51-42 at the East of England Arena yesterday (June 16) to complete a home and away double in the SGB Championship.
It was a fourth triumph against them in all during 2017 after they also won both legs of a KO Cup tie early in the season – and they have the prospect of two more clashes against Redcar to look forward to in the coming days.
The latest success was probably the most important of all as Panthers desperately attempt to keep their faint play-off hopes alive.
They hit the track yesterday a dozen points off the top four, but managed to reduce that deficit to single points courtesy of an entertaining and hard-fought triumph secured by a 5-1 from top pair Jack Holder and Chris Harris in heat 13.
Number one Holder (11+1) was unbeaten by an opponent until bringing up the rear in the finale, while Harris’ second place in that race carried him to the top of the club’s scorechart on 12+1 - their double-figures returns leading a solid team showing.
“We’re not thinking about the league table or the play-offs,” said Panthers boss Carl Johnson. “We’re just trying to win as many speedway meetings as possible and see where it takes us.
“We’re only just into the second half of the season so there is still a hell of a lot of racing to go. We made a lot of ground up with a run of wins recently and the challenge now is to do the same again.
“We’ve got a very good record against Redcar, but we always expect a tough meeting against them – and that’s what we got again.
“They have a lot of riders who are very capable at our track, but we produced a strong team performance to get the victory.
“It was one we desperately needed after being beaten at home by Sheffield on Friday night and it was great to see the fans turn out to get behind us again.”
They looked set to be treated to the perfect start until Bradley Wilson-Dean tumbled out of second place in the opening race when sitting on a 5-1.
The New Zealand champion quickly cleared the track to leave partner Holder to take victory in the first of five successive shared races.
The highlight of that run was an ideal return from injury for reserve Simon Lambert as he triumphed in the second heat.
Lambert, back from surgery on a broken wrist, hunted down long-time leader Fernando Garcia before swooping in the final bend.
Wilson-Dean made amends for his earlier spill when leading home Holder for a 5-1 as Panthers hit the front in heat six, and Harris inspired a 4-2 in the next race to stretch the lead.
It grew again when Paul Starke took the widest line on the opening lap of heat nine to take victory in another 4-2, and the advantage reached double-figures courtesy of a Harris victory and Lambert third place in heat 11, when Redcar man Jonas B. Andersen somewhat suspiciously got out of shape on the final lap.
The Danish rider perhaps knew that a tactical ride could await for his side in the next race and Redcar didn’t waste the opportunity. Ben Barker – public enemy number one in these parts after his controversial withdrawal from a Panthers’ guest booking the previous weekend – streaked clear with his double-points return inspiring a 7-2 which halved Panthers’ lead.
But any worries of a Redcar fightback were quickly cut short as Holder and Harris slammed in a 5-1 in heat 13 to seal success before skipper Ulrich Ostergaard’s triumph in a shared penultimate race ensured the visitors left empty-handed.
The two teams meet again at Redcar on Thursday (July 20) ahead of another East of England Arena clash on Sunday (July 23) – and Panthers will again need the bulk of the points on offer if they are to close in on a play-off place.
PANTHERS: Chris Harris 12+1, Jack Holder 11+1, Paul Starke 8+1, Ulrich Ostergaard 7+1, Bradley Wilson-Dean 6, Simon Lambert 5, Tom Bacon 2+1.
REDCAR: Ben Barker 15+1, Charles Wright 8, Jason Garrity 6+1, Danny Ayres 5+2, Jonas B. Andersen 4, Ellis Perks 2, Coty Garcia 2.
1 - Holder (60.6), Andersen, Garrity, Wilson-Dean (fell). 3-3, 3-3.
2 - Lambert (62.0), Garcia, Ayres, Bacon (ret). 3-3, 6-6.
3 - re-run Barker (60.8), Starke, Ostergaard, Perks (fell/exc). 3-3, 9-9.
4 - re-run Wright (61.4), Harris, Bacon, Ayres. 3-3, 12-12.
5 - Garrity (61.0), Ostergaard, Starke, Andersen. 3-3, 15-15.
6 - Wilson-Dean (61.9), Holder, Wright, Garcia. 5-1, 20-16.
7 - Harris (60.9), Barker, Lambert, Perks. 4-2, 24-18.
8 - Wilson-Dean (61.8), Andersen, Ayres, Bacon. 3-3, 27-21.
9 - Starke (61.5), Wright, Ostergaard, Garcia. 4-2, 31-23.
10 - Holder (61.7), Perks, Barker, Wilson-Dean. 3-3, 34-26.
11 - Harris (62.2), Garrity, Lambert, Andersen. 4-2, 38-28.
12 - Barker (t/r, 62.5), Starke, Ayres, Lambert. 2-7, 40-35.
13 - Holder (62.0), Harris, Wright, Garrity. 5-1, 45-36.
14 - Ostergaard (62.7), Ayres, Bacon, Perks. 4-2, 49-38.
15 - Barker (62.3), Harris, Wright, Holder. 2-4, 51-42.