Patched-up Peterborough Panthers suffered last heat heartbreak when being beaten by SGB Championship bottom side Berwick for the second time this season.
The city side - featuring only four of their regular riders - were pipped 47-46 by the Bandits at Shielfield Park last night (August 12).
Panthers went into the final race of a crash-hit contest with a one-point advantage, but skipper Ulrich Ostergaard and top-scorer Jack Holder were on the receiving end of a 4-2 which allowed the hosts to snatch victory.
Bandits number one Nick Morris delivered a tapes-to-flag triumph over Ostergaard in the decider, while David Howe took third place to keep a frustrated Holder at the rear.
“We’ve twice gone to Berwick without a full team and that’s very frustrating,” said Panthers team boss Carl Johnson.
“Two defeats to the bottom team is certainly not what we wanted, but I feel sure we would have won both meetings up there with our one-to-seven.
“Berwick hit us hard early on to build up a big lead. They wanted it more in the early races, but we pulled ourselves back into it and got ourselves ahead going into the final heat.
“But Berwick had the choice of gates and that helped them get the 4-2 they needed.”
Panthers, without injured men Bradley Wilson-Dean and Tom Bacon, and number one Chris Harris, who was riding in the SGB Premiership for Rye House, were second-best in the first half of the contest.
But they catapulted themselves back into contention as Holder successfully completed a tactical ride in heat nine when having high-scoring reserve Simon Lambert, whose paid 12-point return was his best of a difficult campaign, in tow.
Their efforts in that race earned an 8-1 which dragged Panthers to within three points of their hosts and it remained a close contest from then on.
It proved to be a painful night for Ostergaard, who hit the deck twice in as many races.
The Danish ace was involved in a first-bend tangle with Morris in heat 10 and was then unable to avoid partner Steve Worrall after the Panthers guest number one lost control in heat 11.
The meeting was then held up again when Berwick guest reserve Jack Parkinson Blackburn crashed heavily while attempting to blast round Lambert in heat 12.
And home skipper Kevin Doolan then hit the deck in the penultimate affair as Panthers were awarded a 5-1 – with Ostergaard leading Lambert – which edged them a point clear.
But it was the Bandits who had the last laugh to snatch victory, leaving Panthers with just a consolation point to show for their efforts on a bruising night.
BERWICK: Nick Morris 13+1, David Howe 10+1, Kevin Doolan 8, Dany Gappmaier 6, Jye Etheridge 6, Jack Parkinson-Blackburn (guest) 4+3, Rider replacement for Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen.
PANTHERS: Jack Holder 13, Ulrich Ostergaard 12+1, Simon Lambert 9+3, Paul Starke 8+1, Steve Worrall (guest) 4, Tom Woolley (guest) 0, Rider replacement for Bradley Wilson-Dean.
Panthers face a third away meeting in as many days at Newcastle tonight (August 13, 6.30pm).
The city side welcome back number one Chris Harris after he missed their narrow defeat at Berwick, but club bosses were still working last night to book guests to cover for Jack Holder, who has again been allowed to ride in Poland, and injured reserve Tom Bacon.
They are only allowed to use a National League rider to fill in for Holder, but intended replacement Jack Parkinson Blackburn crashed heavily while riding against Panthers for Berwick.
They will continue to use the rider replacement facility for Bradley Wilson-Dean at Brough Park.