Peterborough Panthers have completed an unwanted hat-trick of three SGB Championship defeats in as many days.
A city team featuring only three regular riders - due to an injury crisis and their decision to again allow top talent Jack Holder to race in Poland - was brushed aside 58-34 at Newcastle last night (August 13).
The Brough Park beating followed hot on the heels of a Saturday setback at bottom side Berwick and a Friday drubbing from title hopefuls Edinburgh.
Bradley Wilson-Dean missed all three meetings with a hand problem while Tom Bacon crashed out at Edinburgh with a shoulder issue which sidelined him for the remainder of the weekend. He’s due to see a specialist this week.
And captain Ulrich Ostergaard was then added to the casualty list with knee and ankle injuries sustained in the first of two crashes he was caught up in at Berwick.
He battled through the remainder of that meeting, but succumbed to the pain yesterday morning and withdrew from the Newcastle clash.
That meant number one Chris Harris, Paul Starke and Simon Lambert were the only regulars on show last night - and two of them are not fully fit!
Starke bravely soldiered through the busy spell despite having shoulder and hand injuries sustained in a big crash riding for SGB Premiership club Poole on Thursday.
And reserve Lambert endured a hectic run of seven-ride shifts on three successive nights despite still not being fully over his June wrist surgery.
“To come out of the weekend with more injuries than league points is certainly not what we wanted,” said team boss Carl Johnson.
“We went into the Northern tour already a man down without Bradley and the further injuries have really hurt us.
“Losing Tom on Friday was very disappointing as he’s been in good form lately, and then seeing Ulrich caught up in crashes made life even more difficult.
“He probably should have withdrawn at Berwick as he could barely walk, but he wanted to keep going to help the team.
“But there was no way he could ride at Newcastle and he was due to go to hospital last night to get himself checked out properly.
“We were always going to be up against it there with so many guys missing, but we kept things tight for the first half of the meeting.
“Newcastle had a run of four 5-1s in five races towards the end of the night that powered them clear, but we dug in and stuck together.”
Panthers actually led briefly early on after a 4-2 inspired by a Lambert success in heat two. Reserve guest Luke Ruddick, who rides for Mildenhall in the National League, took third spot to register his only point of the night.
And while that proved to be the city side’s sole advantage, they did ride solidly as five of the opening nine races ended in 3-3s.
Harris and Starke both enjoyed a heat triumph during that run, but Harris was unable to repeat the feat when taking a tactical ride in heat 11.
He had to settle for second place behind Diamonds man Steve Worrall, who performed considerably better for his regular club than when guesting for Panthers the previous night, in a 4-4 outcome.
Harris did sign off on a high by winning the finale to deny Worrall a maximum and take his own points tally to an impressive 13, while Lambert was paid for double-figures for the second successive evening when piling up 8+3.
Lambert also had to take evasive action to avoid a pile up with guest Jonas B. Andersen after the Redcar man - drafted in to cover for Ostergaard - hit the deck in front of him in heat 12 to earn an exclusion.
The club’s other guest - Shelby Rutherford - was gifted his only point by an Andersen error late in heat 10. The National League man filled the void left by Holder’s absence with Panthers not granted a facility to bring in a like-for-like replacement.
Their decision to not include Holder was branded a ‘disgrace’ in an article in the meeting programme at Newcastle, but Johnson was keen to avoid being dragged into a war of words.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion - and that’s the one of Newcastle,” added Johnson. “Our stance as a club is clear - we feel we have acted in the best interests of our rider in terms of furthering his career.”
Panthers are back in action on Sunday (August 20) when they go to Scunthorpe.
NEWCASTLE: Steve Worrall 14, Robert Lambert 11+1, Stuart Robson 9+1, Ludvig Lindgren 8+4, Ashley Morris 7+2, Ben Hopwood 6, Alfie Bowtell 3+1.
PANTHERS: Chris Harris 13, Simon Lambert 8+3, Paul Starke 6, Jonas B Andersen (guest) 5, Shelby Rutherford (guest) 1, Luke Ruddick (guest) 1, Rider replacement for Bradley Wilson-Dean.