REPORT: Magnificent Michael sets up victory for Peterborough Panthers

Michael Palm Toft is out in front for Peterborough Panthers against Edinburgh in heat nine on his way to a magnificent maximum. Photo: David Lowndes.
Michael Palm Toft is out in front for Peterborough Panthers against Edinburgh in heat nine on his way to a magnificent maximum. Photo: David Lowndes.
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Magnificent Michael Palm Toft produced one of the finest performances of his career as Peterborough Panthers delivered a pleasing SGB Championship response yesterday (May 13).

The Danish star reeled off a six-ride, 18-point maximum as the city men saw off Edinburgh 48-42 at the East of England Arena.

Panthers star Ulrich Ostergaard leads heat four in the win over Edinburgh. Photo: David Lowndes.

Panthers star Ulrich Ostergaard leads heat four in the win over Edinburgh. Photo: David Lowndes.

It was a rapid return to winning ways less than 48 hours after a 57-33 drubbing at the hands of Workington - the club’s heaviest home defeat in the modern era of 15-heat meetings.

And Panthers again had to come from behind as they trailed the Monarchs by six points before a successful tactical substitute outing for star man Palm Toft launched a turnaround.

Number one Scott Nicholls also powered into double-figures, while reserve Tom Bacon delivered a couple of fine late rides.

“Michael was nothing short of superb,” said team boss Carl Johnson. “To win six rides in one meeting is a hell of an effort and he looked untouchable to be quite honest.

Heat six action from Peterborough Panthers v Edinburgh and Scott Nicholls leads the way for the city side. Photo: David Lowndes.

Heat six action from Peterborough Panthers v Edinburgh and Scott Nicholls leads the way for the city side. Photo: David Lowndes.

“It was a brilliant individual performance to lead a really pleasing team effort. The boys all pulled together after what happened on Friday and showed a lot of character to go out and win a meeting only two days later.

“We didn’t do anything different after Friday and we didn’t do anything different ahead of facing Edinburgh.

“The defeat against Workington has gone. Yesterday was a new day and thankfully it came complete with three points.”

A shared opener - in which Nicholls and Emil Grondal packed the minor places behind Monarchs number one Wells - ranked as an improvement on the club’s Friday shocker.

But they were soon trailing as reserves Simon Lambert and Bacon were on the receiving end of a 5-1 in re-run heat two - the former looking short of speed and the latter unable to make up a 15-metre starting handicap after ploughing into the tapes in the initial staging.

Palm Toft’s first success, as he stalked and then zoomed past Mark Riss, followed in a shared third heat before Edinburgh extended their advantage as Erik Riss inspired a 4-2 in heat four.

Palm Toft (superbly holding off Wells in heat five) and Nicholls (blasting from third to first after fluffing the sixth heat start) then took the chequered flag in successive shared races before team boss Johnson deployed the in-form Dane as a tactical substitute in the seventh contest.

And it proved to be an inspired move as Palm Toft teamed up with countryman Ostergaard for a 5-1 that slashed the hosts’ arrears to two points.

A Grondal victory in an awarded eighth heat (skipper Lambert tumbled out of last place on lap three) kept it that way before Panthers completed their recovery by levelling courtesy of a 4-2 in the ninth instalment.

Predictably Palm Toft was the man leading the way as he stretched his winning streak to four rides by holding off the late thrust of Erik Riss. He had sat on a 5-1 with Lunna for much of the contest until they were split by the visiting German rider, but Panthers didn’t have to wait long to hit the front for the first time.

It was hard work for Grondal, though, as he had to push his bike around much of the final lap of the heat 10 re-run to earn a point following a mechanical failure.

Grondal was sitting in second place behind Nicholls when the gremlins struck, but his fine effort on foot earned him a deserved ovation from the Alwalton faithful.

Panthers’ lead proved to be short-lived as Edinburgh hit back with a 4-2 in the next race, although a fourth-to-second surge from Bacon prevented further damage for the home side.

The same rider also proved to be a hero in heat 12 when roaring round the boards from last to first and leading in partner Nike Lunna for a terrific 5-1.

It was a stellar contribution which certainly didn’t deserve the painful finish it received as Bacon’s front fork band snapped just after crossing the finish line, leaving him and Lunna in a heap on the track. Thankfully both were able to walk away.

Panthers maintained their four-point cushion as Nicholls and Palm Toft won shared races to set up a crucial finale and the city side were assured of victory when Monarchs man Wells retired at the start of a re-run decider.

He could only watch on as Palm Toft completed his glorious individual performance, but Erik Riss eased past Nicholls to snatch second place and ensure the Monarchs departed in possession of a league point.

They were beaten by the same 48-42 scoreline as they triumphed by when the sides met in Scotland nine days earlier.

A busy spell of home fixtures continues for Panthers when they entertain Newcastle on Saturday (May 19, 7pm).

SCORES

PANTHERS: Michael Palm Toft 18 (max), Scott Nicholls 12, Emil Grondal 5+1, Tom Bacon 5, Ulrich Ostergaard 4+1, Nike Lunna 3+1, Simon Lambert 1.

EDINBURGH: Erik Riss 10+1, Ricky Wells 9+1, Josh Pickering 6+2, Matt Williamson 5, Max Ruml 4+2, Joel Andersson 4+1, Mark Riss 4.