The lights went out on one of Peterborough Panthers’ hopes of silverware last night (September 30).
The city team were dumped out of the SGB Championship Shield at the semi-final stage by Lakeside.
Panthers triumphed 46-44 in the second leg at the East of England Arena but fell to a 94-86 aggregate loss after a 50-40 defeat in the opening clash the previous evening.
They encountered plenty of hitches on the track as they couldn’t live with the top-end firepower of Lakeside and were unable to exploit the Hammers’ weaknesses at reserve.
The booking of Edinburgh racer Josh Pickering as a guest at second string was a particularly shrewd and arguably match-winning move by Lakeside given he piled up paid 10 points when replacing a rider in Ben Morley who rarely troubles the scorers at the Alwalton circuit.
And there were off-track problems as well with a floodlight failure on the third bend during heat 11 leading to a lengthy delay while temporary lighting was erected in that area.
The city club’s determination to ensure the meeting went the full distance was admirable, but the efforts of their track staff weren’t rewarded with a miraculous comeback as Lakeside sealed their passage into the final following a Kyle Newman triumph in heat 14.
“It’s been a complete disaster from start to finish,” Panthers owner Ged Rathbone told the crowd on the tannoy.
“It was one of those nights where everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
“We didn’t get the track right. The lads have been asking for more dirt - they got it tonight, but it didn’t suit them.
“Then we had the floodlight failure and Lakeside wanted the meeting abandoned at that point, but we’ve got a duty to give our supporters 15 heats of speedway and we managed to do that.
“Massive thanks go to the Showground for putting in the temporary lighting and for the fans who stayed behind us despite the delay.
“We’re disappointed to be beaten and to see one of our chances of silverware come to an end, but we need to bounce back from this and make sure we get things right in the KO Cup and the play-offs.
“We can still win a treble this season.”
Guest number one Thomas Jorgensen took the flag in a shared opener before Panthers were gifted a 5-1 when Kasper Andersen tumbled out of the second contest.
The Hammers’ reserve guest – in for injured Zach Wajtknecht - was a clear leader when losing control as he exited the fourth bend and clattered into the fence.
The Danish racer was able to walk away from a spill which led to the race being awarded with Panthers captain Simon Lambert and guest Carl Wilkinson profiting.
Back-to-back shared heats followed before Lakeside levelled when Richard Lawson and Pickering bagged a 5-1 in heat five.
A series of three shared heats then followed with Panthers appearing fortunate in the second of them when Wilkinson was deemed to have held onto third spot by referee Graham Reeve even though the general consensus trackside was that his pocket had been picked by fast-finishing Newman.
The city side were also left kicking themselves in heat eight when seeing a 5-1 advantage turn into a 3-3 as leader Ulrich Ostergaard and second-placed Lambert both succumbed to blasts round the outside from Pickering.
Lambert could probably be forgiven on grounds of tiredness after taking six rides in the opening eight races – a hefty workload not helped by Michael Palm Toft’s careless exclusion for going through the tapes at the start of the seventh instalment.
Lakeside then took advantage of an Emil Grondal tumble in heat nine to collect a 4-2 inspired by a Nick Morris success as he completed a hat-trick of race wins.
Jorgensen and Palm Toft then triumphed in shared races, but the loss of light during the second of those contests then led to a delay of close to an hour.
Panthers roared out of the traps when the action resumed as Lambert and Grondal slammed in a 5-1 in heat 12 - the former completing a fine 13+1 shift and the latter delivering by far his best ride of the night.
But there was to be no sporting fairytale on the Showground shale as Lawson took a shared heat 13 before Newman roared from tapes to flag to do likewise in the penultimate race and ensure the Hammers progressed.
Lawson then held off Jorgensen in a terrific scrap in a shared finale as Panthers triumphed narrowly on the night but bowed out overall.
It’s now honours even between the two clubs after Panthers progressed into the semi-finals of the KO Cup at the expense of Lakeside the previous night.
Their reward is a last-four tie against Scunthorpe in that competition. The away leg is this Friday (October 5) with the return clash at Alwalton being staged on Saturday, October 13.
Panthers and Lakeside do battle again this weekend as their trilogy continues with an SGB Championship play-off semi-final showdown.
They sides meet at Rye House on Saturday (October 6, 7pm) ahead of a 5pm return at the East of England Arena the following night (October 7).
PANTHERS: Simon Lambert 13+1, Thomas Jorgensen (guest) 10+2, Ulrich Ostergaard 8+1, Michael Palm Toft 7+2, Carl Wilkinson (guest) 4+3, Emil Grondal 4+1, Rider replacement for Bradley Wilson-Dean.
LAKESIDE: Richard Lawson 12+1, Nick Morris 9, Josh Pickering (guest) 8+2, Adam Ellis 8+1, Kyle Newman 5, Jason Edwards (guest) 2, Kasper Andersen (guest) 0.