PREVIEW: In-form skipper out to silence his critics
Captain Ulrich Ostergaard hopes to continue to silence his critics as Peterborough Panthers step up their chase for silverware tonight (June 16).
The city racers entertain Scunthorpe Scorpions in what has become the opening leg of an SGB Championship KO Cup quarter-final showdown (7.30pm).
The intended first leg at Scunthorpe was abandoned earlier this month and that means Panthers now have the opportunity to take control of the tie on their East of England Arena shale ahead of a still-to-be-arranged return clash.
And Ostergaard is hopeful of another high-scoring showing after enjoying a welcome return to form in recent days. He had earlier been struggling for points with some supporters on social media suggesting he should have been sacrificed - rather than fellow Dane Kenenth Hansen - when the club brought in top star Chris Harris last month.
But Ostergaard responded in the best possible way by slamming in paid 13 to help Panthers beat bottom side Berwick in a league fixture last Sunday (June 11) and then repeated that scoring feat when guesting for Redcar last night (June 14).
Ostergaard said: “It’s been a tough start to the season in England. Everything has been going great in Denmark, but I’ve had a few issues over here.
“I haven’t been getting the scores I expect of myself and that is massively frustrating.
“It was important to pick up lots of points against Berwick and I hope that’s the kick my season needed.
“It’s never nice to read that some people think you should be dropped, but I just use that sort of thing as extra motivation. It makes me even hungrier to do well for a club I love.
“Anyone who knows me will tell you how proud I am to be the Peterborough captain and I always give my best.
“The fact I ride for a promoter (Ged Rathbone) who is also a great friend and my main sponsor makes it even more disappointing if things aren’t going well.
“Hopefully I can carry on scoring big points now and help us to win a trophy. It’s been far too long since this club last had some silverware and the KO Cup is a chance for us to put that right.”
Panthers have called in Swindon and Lakeside talent Zach Wajtknecht to guest at reserve tonight in place of injury victim Simon Lambert.
Wajtknecht impressed with a double-figures display in the British Under 21 semi-final at the East of England Arena earlier in the season.
Lambert has now undergone surgery on the double-break of the wrist suffered in a crash - for which he was completely blameless - against Berwick.
Panthers bosses have drafted in former favourite Richard Hall as a short-term replacement as Lambert recuperates. Hall will step in from Sunday, when Panthers entertain Sheffield in a league fixture.
The city club have already recorded home and away league wins against Scunthorpe in 2017. The Scorpions are led by former Panthers man Michael Palm Toft, but require the use of two guests tonight.
Todd Kurtz steps in for the in-form Lewis Kerr, who is on SGB Premiership duty with Somerset, while Ben Hopwood takes the place of the retired Josh Bailey at reserve.
PANTHERS: Chris Harris, Bradley Wilson-Dean, Paul Starke, Ulrich Ostergaard, Jack Holder, Zach Wajtknecht (guest), Tom Bacon.
SCUNTHORPE: Michael Palm Toft, Tero Aarnio, Todd Kurtz (guest), Ryan Douglas, Josh Auty, Carl Wilkinson, Ben Hopwood (guest).
* Panthers number one Chris Harris saw his hopes of earning a World Championship return come to an end yesterday.
Harris missed out in a semi-final qualifier in Germany, when he could only rack up seven points from five rides at Olching.
That was not enough to earn the required top-seven finish to advance to the SGP Challenge next month.