Team manager Johnson praises ‘fantastic’ effort

Bradley Wilson-Dean leads heat five.
Bradley Wilson-Dean leads heat five.
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Team manager Carl Johnson saluted his Panthers riders after a fine pair of performances against the SGB Championship title favourites.

The city side collected four points in the space of three days against Glasgow, following up a 47-43 away defeat last Friday with a rousing 49-41 home success on Sunday.

And Johnson admitted the close scorelines in both fixtures came as no surprise with Panthers maintaining their record of picking up a point in every away league meeting in 2018 before benefitting from a few pieces of good fortune when seeing off the Tigers at the East of England Arena.

“In all honesty I thought Glasgow would probably get a point here just as we did up at their place,” reflected Johnson.

“The fact they left with nothing means we’ve gained a point on them and the way we performed in both meetings against a team strongly fancied to win the title was fantastic.

“We felt we could be competitive at Glasgow and proved that by holding the lead a couple of times and never being more than two points behind until after the final heat.

“We didn’t start well on Sunday and then allowed Glasgow to get back ahead again, but the way we finished the meeting was really impressive.

“Yes, they had things go against them, but that’s speedway. We’ve suffered plenty of bad luck over the years so we’re not going to complain when we catch the odd break.

“We’ve had to make enforced changes due to injuries, but we showed they have not unsettled us.

“There’s still a long way to go, but we’re in a good position and we need to keep chalking off the results to stay in contention for a play-off place.”

Panthers face another tough SGB Championship assignment tomorrow night (Friday, 7.30pm) when they travel to a Scunthorpe side also tipped to feature in the title race.

The Scorpions have won all three previous home league outings at their Eddie Wright Raceway base this term, but it’s a venue where Panthers have enjoyed success in the past.

Scunthorpe are another team to have suffered serious injury problems this season and currently have three riders – number one Steve Worrall, fast-improving Stefan Nielsen and American reserve Gino Manzares – out injured.

Worrall did attempt a comeback from a broken leg in the British Final on Monday, but aborted it after three rides. Clubmate Jason Garrity fared better in reaching the final.

Worrall is replaced by Ipswich man Rory Schlein tomorrow while Redcar rider Jordan Stewart comes in for Manzares at the bottom of the Scunthorpe order. They use rider-replacement for Nielsen.

Schlein then faces Panthers again on Sunday when his regular club, Ipswich, visit Alwalton (5pm) for a crucial SGB Championship Shield Southern Group clash.

Panthers have to beat their East Anglian rivals to advance to the semi-finals as the best runners-up in the group stage.

Panthers are at full-strength on both days and Johnson added: “Every meeting is a big one and we want a result every time we go out onto the track - regardless of the competition.

“We’ve done really well on the road so far this season and we’ll look to keep that going at Scunthorpe and it goes without saying that we want a win against Ipswich to get into the semi-finals of the Shield.

“We got a taste for winning trophies last season and that’s another piece of silverware that we’d like to lift.”

TEAMS

PANTHERS: 1 Scott Nicholls, 2 Ellis Perks, 3 Bradley Wilson-Dean, 4 Michael Palm Toft, 5 Ulrich Ostergaard, 6 Simon Lambert, 7 Tom Bacon.

SCUNTHORPE: 1 Rory Schlein (guest), 2 Rider replacement for Stefan Nielsen, 3 Josh Auty, 4 Jake Allen, 5 Jason Garrity, 6 Danny Phillips, 7 Jordan Stewart (guest).

IPSWICH: 1 Danny King, 2 Michael Hartel, 3 Cameron Heeps, 4 Nico Covatti, 5 Rory Schlein, 6 Connor Mountain, 7 Danyon Hume.