Two more wins should be enough for play-off spot

Ulrich Ostergaard is adamant he'll be fit to race on August 5.
Ulrich Ostergaard is adamant he'll be fit to race on August 5.
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Team boss Carl Johnson reckons two more victories will seal an SGB Championship play-off spot for table-topping Panthers.

The city side sit seven points clear of closest challengers Lakeside with seven meetings remaining in the regular season.

Panthers, who have admittedly completed more league meetings than every other club except for bottom side Redcar, have a 15-point cushion over the team – Workington – who currently sit directly below the play-off places.

Johnson said: “We’ve worked hard to get ourselves into a very good position and we don’t intend giving it up.

“I’m pretty sure that two more wins will be enough to ensure we’re in the top four and we’re confident we can get them.

“We’ve been strong at home – one meeting against Workington aside – and we’ve picked up points from all five of our league meetings on the road so far.

“We’re not going to set ourselves any sort of points target, though. It might sound boring, but concentrating on one meeting at a time has worked so far and that’s what we’ll continue to do.

“The only goal we have is staying top. Finishing there would give us the choice of semi-final opponents in the play-offs and that’s a strong hand to have.”

Panthers are currently in a three-week break without a fixture.

They haven’t ridden since beating reigning champions Sheffield in an SGB Championship clash on July 15 and don’t return to the track until August 5 when hosting East Anglian rivals Ipswich (league) and Lakeside (KO Cup) in an Alwalton double-header.

Their lead in the league standings could, in theory at least, have been wiped out by the time they race again with Lakeside having three meetings before then – the first of which is at Sheffield tonight (Thursday).

Five members of the city side – number one Scott Nicholls, Michael Palm Toft, Bradley Wilson-Dean, captain Simon Lambert and Tom Bacon – have team places in other British leagues so are at least getting meetings elsewhere.

Emil Grondal is struggling for time on the bike due to a break in the Danish season as well as Panthers’ blank spell, while the only man probably happy with the current lack of fixtures is injured Ulrich Ostergaard.

The Danish veteran is nursing five broken ribs following a July 13 spill against Scunthorpe but hopes to be fit to face Ipswich and Lakeside. Panthers’ bosses have a possible guest on stand-by should Ostergaard not be able to return.

Johnson added: “The fact the majority of the boys are keeping busy in other leagues is a positive for us.

“All speedway riders hate sitting around without meetings and getting rusty. Time on the bike is essential for them.

“The only person who is probably benefitting from the current gap in fixtures is Ulrich as it’s giving him the chance to recuperate after his recent crash.

“He’s adamant he’ll be able to ride on August 5 but I can’t help thinking it will come too quickly for him.”