Peterborough Panthers saw their 2018 season come to an end last night (October 24) - but team boss Carl Johnson was determined to salvage pride from the disappointment of SGB Championshoip play-offs defeat.
The depleted city side – again able to track only two of their regular riders – were beaten 56-34 by Lakeside in a re-staged semi-final, second leg clash at Rye House.
That confirmed a 102-78 exit on aggregate after the Hammers also triumphed narrowly in the first leg at the East of England Arena earlier this month.
It completed a cruel end to a campaign which promised to deliver incredible success until table-topping Panthers were torn to shreds by a series of injuries.
Number one Scott Nicholls, the club’s second-best rider Michael Palm Toft, middle-order man Bradley Wilson-Dean and match-winning reserve Tom Bacon all saw 2018 end early while Ulrich Ostergaard, who also missed two months of the year with rib damage, was controversially blocked from riding last night in an illness row.
Taking all that into consideration, the club’s exits from the SGB Championship Shield (quarter-finals), KO Cup (semi-finals) and play-offs were all rather predictable, but nonetheless still painful for Johnson.
He said: “This will always be the season we all look back on what might have been.
“We were the best team in the league for 90 per-cent of the season but injuries cruelly cost us ahead of the most important 10 per cent.
“This team was tipped to struggle by the so-called experts, but we proved those people very wrong by finishing top of the table which was a massive achievement.
“Our riders, the management and our fans really deserved to see us end the season with silverware, but while that unfortunately hasn’t happened we should all be proud of how we performed this year.”
Panthers put on a much better last night than they had when the second leg was abandoned on Sunday (October 21).
Top-scorer Emil Grondal delivered their only heat victory in the 11th contest which was one of seven races in which they shared the spoils.
But they were unable to live with the scoring power of Lakeside’s star trio. Nick Morris reeled off a four-ride maximum, Adam Ellis also collected four victories in a row before being excluded in the finale, and Richard Lawson’s only defeat at the hands of an opponent came when he made an error to drop to the back in heat six.
Lakeside were also boosted by a double-figures display from reserve Ben Morley while Panthers’ assembled cast of guests battled well under the circumstances.
LAKESIDE: Ben Morley 12+1, Nick Morris 12, Adam Ellis 12, Richard Lawson 10+2, Zach Wajtknecht 5, Alfie Bowtell 3+1, Kyle Newman 2.
PANTHERS: Emil Grondal 8+1, Ash Morris (guest) 7, Theo Pijper (guest) 6, Thomas Jorgensen (guest) 5+1, Carl Wilkinson (guest) 4+2, Simon Lambert 4+2, Rider replacement for Scott Nicholls.