REPORT: Sheffield 45, Panthers 45: Great result, but it could have been even better

Michael Palm Toft was a Panthers hero in Sheffield.
Michael Palm Toft was a Panthers hero in Sheffield.
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Team manager Carl Johnson admitted a fine Peterborough Panthers draw could have been more last night (May 3).

The city team claimed back-to-back 4-2s in the closing two races to snatch a 45-45 deadlock at reigning champions Sheffield in the SGB Championship.

Michael Palm-Toft took the chequered flag in the penultimate contest before grabbing a vital third place as top-scoring number one Scott Nicholls triumphed in the finale to complete a terrific 12-point performance.

And while Johnson was naturally pleased with gaining two league points at Owlerton Stadium, he was left to reflect on what might have been.

Ulrich Ostergaard suffered a puncture while leading on the final lap of heat six and lost out on victory to Todd Kurtz as a result, while captain Simon Lambert was also plagued by machinery problems in his first two rides at a track where he normally performs well.

“I said all along that we could cause teams problems on the road and we showed that tonight,” said Johnson.

“When you get to the end of the meeting you always look back at key moments. Ulrich’s puncture was definitely one as the point he lost through no fault of his own on the last lap of heat six would have made all the difference.

“We also struggled a bit for points at reserve with Simon having clutch trouble, but we were never more than four points behind and we always believed we could get a result.

“While it’s disappointing to have only drawn the meeting in some ways, we’ll happily take two points away at the reigning champions.

“We’ve started the season much better than everyone seemed to expect and hopefully people are taking notice of what we’re doing.

“We fully believe we can be a threat on any track on any given night and we need to take the confidence of this result up to Edinburgh with us tonight.”

Palm Toft (9+2) provided the best support to number one Nicholls at Sheffield, while Ostergaard rode through the pain barrier for seven points despite that puncture frustration. His total was matched by new signing Nike Lunna, who delivered his best Panthers performance to date.

Emil Grondal was unbeaten by an opponent in his first two outings – combining for a 5-1 and a 4-2 with Nicholls in the process - but then managed to add only one further point from his remaining pair of rides.

Panthers were short of points at the bottom of the order when Lambert and fellow reserve Tom Bacon could only contribute two points each from four rides apiece.

Charles Wright and Lasse Bjerre were the key performer for Sheffield with hauls of 14 and 12 points respectively on a night when they lost number one Kyle Howarth to a leg problem following his opening two rides. Reserve James Shanes also racked up paid 11 for the hosts.

Panthers swap the long straights and sweeping bends of Sheffield for the tight and technical Armdale circuit tonight (May 4) when taking on Edinburgh, 7.30pm.

Ostergaard and Grondal are both racing in their native Denmark. Panthers will employ rider replacement for the former and have drafted in Newcastle man Carl Wilkinson to guest for the latter.

SCORES

SHEFFIELD: Charles Wright 14, Lasse Bjerre 12, James Shanes 9+2, Todd Kurtz 7, Jack Smith 2+1, Kyle Howarth 1 (withdrawn), Jan Graversen 0.

PANTHERS: Scott Nicholls 12, Michael Palm Toft 9+2, Ulrich Ostergaard 7, Nike Lunna 7, Emil Grondal 6+1, Tom Bacon 2+1, Simon Lambert 2.