Peterborough Panthers were the most talked about team in British speedway yesterday (May 6) - but it wasn’t down to their performance on the track.
They suffered a third successive Premier League defeat when going down 52-40 at Plymouth in new team boss Jason Attwood’s first meeting at the helm.
However, the trip to Devon was almost an after-thought on a day when Panthers dominated the sport’s headlines after seeing their bold capture of Great Britian star Craig Cook knocked back by the authorities.
The British Speedway Promoters’ Association (BSPA) ruled, in a nutshell, that Cook signing for the city side was ‘not in the best interests of the sport’ – a perplexing decision that led to a widespread outpouring of criticism for the governing body on social media and the creation of an online petition which gained more than 1,200 signatures in its first 12 hours.
But the Panthers’ display at Plymouth highlighted exactly why promoter Ged Rathbone is so determined to strengthen his side with the addition of Cook and local lad Tom Stokes, who had been earmarked to replace Nicklas Porsing and Michael Palm Toft.
They provided only two race-winners and collected just three heat advantages – one of those courtesy of a tactical ride - at a St Boniface Arena track where they have won meetings in each of the past two seasons.
And their misery was compounded by the loss of Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen following a nasty heat 10 tangle with unbeaten Plymouth guest Kevin Doolan. Panthers expect to know more about the Dane’s condition later today (May 7).
Attwood said: “It was good to come in and look at things with a fresh set of eyes.
“It is not rocket science to work out that we aren’t winning enough races or picking up enough advantages, but I can’t fault the effort of any of the riders. They all worked hard to try to get things working better.
“Losing Nikolaj after a big crash deflated us a bit because he had been riding well.
“He would have taken second place at least in that race and would more than likely have had two more rides, which could have made a big difference to the scoreline.
“But we kept ourselves in the meeting and went into heat 15 with the chance to nick a point if we could pick up a 5-1.”
Busk Jakobsen had earlier taken a tactical ride for the visitors in heat seven after four Plymouth advantages in the opening six races.
But he had to settle for second spot when being unable to trouble Plymouth man Sam Simota in a re-run race as Panthers pocketed a 5-3.
Three more Plymouth gains followed, culminating in Busk Jakobsen’s exclusion and withdrawal for the clash with Doolan.
Panthers did finally have something to cheer when captain Ulrich Ostergaard led home impressive reserve Tom Perry in heat 11.
And there was another 5-1 for Attwood’s men in the penultimate race when Michael Palm Toft was followed in by Perry, who completed a terrific 9+5 return for paid 14 points in the process.
But any hopes of dramatically snatching a league point were dashed when Palm Toft tumbled out of the initial staging of heat 15 with Ostergaard splitting home pair Jack Holder and Simota in the re-run.
Panthers entertain Sheffield at the East of England Showground tomorrow (May 8, 5pm).
PLYMOUTH: Kevin Doolan (guest) 12, Jack Holder 12, Sam Simota 11+1, Todd Kurtz 10+1, Stefan Nielsen 7, Ellis Perks 0, Rider replacement for Charlie Gjedde.
PANTHERS: Tom Perry 9+5, Ulrich Ostergaard 9, Michael Palm Toft 8+1, Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen 8, Simon Lambert 6, Emil Grondal 0, Rider replacement for Nicklas Porsing.