On the day Peterborough Panthers had anticipated being able to welcome a top British rider into their team, it was a borrowed Dane who spearheaded their charge to a stirring success.
Flamboyant guest Kenneth Hansen roared to a hat-trick of heat wins and also piled up three second places during a hectic six-ride shift as a patched-up Panthers side saw off Sheffield 50-40 at the East of England Showground yesterday (May 8).
It was a victory which snapped a run of three successive Premier League defeats and was achieved very much against the odds with Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen and Nicklas Porsing both out injured, and the city club at loggerheads with the sport’s governing body over proposed team changes.
Panthers had hoped to hand a debut to flagship signing Craig Cook yesterday until their swoop for the British number two was blocked, sparking an angry backlash.
But they still managed to pocket a victory without him as Workington man Hansen, drafted in for the concussed Busk Jakobsen, took centre stage.
“I’ve loved this place ever since I rode for Peterborough in 2009,” said Hansen. “It was good to get the call to help them out and even better to score a lot of points.
“It was important for Peterborough to turn things around and nice to be a part of it. I still follow their results and like to see them win.
“We were all working to together to pass on information between ourselves and it was a really good effort from all the guys.
“Speedway is a numbers game and it hasn’t quite worked in recent years, but Peterborough have my number and, who knows, it might work for next year.”
Hansen rivalled Sheffield number one Simon Stead for star individual billing yesterday.
A product of the Peterborough junior system almost two decades ago, Stead rolled back the years with a 14+1 point paid maximum for the visitors, but his efforts proved in vain.
He didn’t have the necessary support against a Panthers side aided by a host of pleasing performances.
Hansen led the way while Simon Lambert delivered a double-figure contribution at reserve which included a stunning victory over Tigers man Jason Garrity in heat four – the race of the night, and quite possibly the season, at Alwalton.
Emil Grondal was back-on-song with a valuable 9+2 and the under-threat Michael Palm Toft – who was due to be axed along with Porsing if the move for Cook and Tom Stokes had got the thumbs-up – added 8+1.
Palm Toft’s haul included a meeting-clinching 5-1 in heat 14 when he was followed in for Lambert as Panthers sealed victory in style.
They had earlier been behind on a couple of occasions in the first half of the meeting and didn’t hit the front for the first time until Hansen inspired a 4-2 in heat 9.
A cracking 5-1 from captain Ulrich Ostergaard and Grondal in the next race stretched their advantage to six points and they held it there until Palm Toft and Lambert did the business in heat 14.
Sheffield could have snatched a consolation point with a 5-1 of their own in the finale, but that didn’t happen despite Stead managing to complete his unblemished record.
His partner Kyle Howarth was at the rear until sending Ostergaard into the fence on the final lap and earning an exclusion from referee Dave Robinson.
It meant new Panthers team boss Jason Attwood was successful in his home meeting at the helm.
He said: “A home win was all I could ask for and I’m delighted to get it against a strong Sheffield side who turned us over on our own track earlier in the season.
“I’ve tried to get the boys going since coming on board last week, but it is the riders themselves who should take all the credit.
“It was a performance with plenty of encouraging signs and a result which gives us something to build on.”
Panthers return to action next Sunday (May 15) when hosting Rye House at 7.30pm. By then the situation regarding their capture of Cook, and the future of promoter Ged Rathbone, is likely to have become clearer.
PANTHERS: Kenneth Hansen (guest) 15, Simon Lambert 10+2, Emil Grondal 9+2, Michael Palm Toft 8+1, Ulrich Ostergaard 7+2, Tom Perry 1, rider replacement for Nicklas Porsing.
SHEFFIELD: Simon Stead 14+1 (paid max), Kyle Howarth 8, Jason Garrity 7, Dimitri Berge 5, Richard Hall 4+1, Nathan Greaves 1+1, Josh Bates 1.