Peterborough Panthers mounted a late charge to end the unbeaten home record of a set of Premier league play-off rivals last night (July 28).
The city team produced a hot streak of five successive heat advantages during a power-packed finish to snatch a 48-45 triumph at Sheffield.
It was a win which allowed them to climb back into second place in the standings, but it was certainly earned the hard way after they had earlier needed a tactical ride to drag themselves back into contention.
Panthers conceded back-to-back 5-1s during a miserable start before staring at a 10-point deficit after just six races following a hat-trick of 4-2s from the hosts.
It was quite a turnaround even allowing for the home side’s loss of their number one, Simon Stead, after only one ride in addition to already being without the injured Jason Garrity.
Stead took no further part after hitting the deck in the opening bend of heat three, but it wasn’t until much later in the meeting at Owlerton Stadium that Panthers eventually took command.
They didn’t hit the front for the first time until Emil Grondal inspired a 4-2 in the penultimate race before Craig Cook, who won three of the final five instalments, did likewise in a last-heat decider to sew up a valuable victory.
And the significance of it was not lost on assistant team boss Carl Johnson, who said: “It is a very important and very pleasing result.
“Not only does it stop the rot, it gives us a nice boost in the table and it will also do wonders for the confidence of the riders.
“All seven men scored important points to help us pick up this win and that is what we need from them.
“We battled hard to stay in contention and Sheffield’s loss of Stead obviously worked in our favour.
“It’s never nice to see a rider have to pull out injured, but we had to ensure we took advantage.”
A poor start is never a reason for concern for Panthers at this particular venue. They were on the receiving end of three successive 5-1s in a play-off quarter-final last season and still recovered to win.
Last night the hosts banged in two maximums to ease into the driving seat, but Stead’s unscheduled exit gave Panthers a boost.
Sheffield then had Josh Bates excluded in the re-run of heat three before Panthers top-scorer Ulrich Ostergaard led home countryman Grondal for a 5-1 when the race was completed at the third attempt.
But the hosts rallied with three 4-2s in a row to open up a 10-point cushion that led to Ostergaard being deployed in search of double-points in heat seven.
It was a mission the Dane successfully completed to cut Panthers’ arrears to seven points and that’s the way it stayed until a five-star spree of 4-2s allowed them to claim victory.
Cook inspired the first of them in heat 11 before Ostergaard took the flag in the next contest. Cook again took the honours in heat 13 and Grondal then sped clear in the penultimate race to edge Panthers ahead.
And Cook ensured they finished the job by completing a quickfire hat-trick of heat wins in the finale to clinch a welcome win.
Panthers will attempt to end another unbeaten home record on Sunday (July 31) when they travel to Workington (7.30pm).
SHEFFIELD: Dimitri Berge 14+1, Kyle Howarth 14, Arthur Sissis 7+1, Nathan Greaves 4+1, Simon Stead 3 (withdrawn), Josh Bates 3, Rider replacement for Jason Garrity.
PANTHERS: Ulrich Ostergaard 15, Craig Cook 12, Emil Grondal 6+2,Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen 5, Ashley Morris 4+1, Zdenek Holub 3+1, Tom Perry 3.