Peterborough Panthers’ rise to the top of the Premier League was accompanied by another injury worry last night (July 8).
The city racers overcame the absence of three regular riders to deliver a televised tour de force and triumph 49-41 at fellow play-off hopefuls Berwick.
Super guest Steve Worrall reeled off four successive heat wins to lead Panthers to glory at Shielfield Park in front of the Sky TV cameras and was only denied a deserved maximum by a last place in the final race when the contest was already over.
But the jump to the second-tier summit was marred by the loss of teenage star Robert Lambert to a suspected hip injury following a horror heat nine crash.
The Great Britain international was catapulted from his bike after a tangle with top-scoring Berwick star Thomas Jorgensen entering the first bend. Only the smart reaction of reserve Rafal Konopa, who managed to lay his bike down and avoid the cartwheeling Lambert, prevented an even nastier spill.
The 17 year-old sensation, who had already completed a hat-trick of heat wins, took no further part in a success sealed with two races to spare before busy reserve Simon Lambert’s late swoop for third spot in heat 14 clinched all four available league points and extended their unbeaten away record to five meetings.
Joint team boss Carl Johnson said: “I could not be more proud of what the riders achieved last night and it feels great to be back on top of the table.
“To win away when missing three of our own riders is a hell of an achievement and I can only thank the guests, Steve and Adam Roynon, for the part they played in securing a memorable win.
“The atmosphere in the camp is fantastic and the boys are quite rightly oozing confidence at the moment.
“It’s just a shame we lost Robert after a very nasty crash. Touch wood it doesn’t look like anything too serious at this stage, but we’ll know more after he has been looked at today.”
Panthers ruthlessly put Berwick to the sword in the early stages as the hosts suffered a catalogue of mechanical problems.
Six advantages and seven winners in the opening eight heats enabled the city side to power into a staggering 20-point advantage. Even the hosts’ tactical ride attempt from Jorgensen in heat five resulted in a Worrall-inspired 5-1 for Panthers.
The loss of Robert Lambert gave Berwick hope of an unlikely revival and they slammed in back-to-back 5-1s to eat into their arrears, but the magnificent Worrall ensured they were not able to build up too much momentum.
He completed a hat-trick of heat wins when combining with fellow guest Roynon for a 4-2 in the 11th contest before sealing victory when going tapes-to-flag in a shared heat 13.
And packing the minor places in the penultimate contest proved enough for Panthers to seal maximum points.
They are back in action tomorrow (July 10) when travelling to struggling Scunthorpe for a top-versus-bottom clash.
Captain Ulrich Ostergaard and fellow Dane Michael Palm Toft both return, but Emil Grondal is again missing and Lewis Blackbird, who stood in as skipper at Berwick, joins him on the list of absentees.
Czech charger Matej Kus, who piled up 14 points for regular club Redcar against Panthers last Sunday, has been called up to guest for Blackbird.
BERWICK: Thomas Jorgensen 16+1, Kevin Doolan 10+3, Ryan Fisher (guest) 8+1, Fernando Garcia 5+1, Richard Hall 2, Alex Edberg 0, Rider replacement for Claus Vissing.
READYPOWER PANTHERS: Steve Worrall (guest) 12, Simon Lambert 10+3, Lewis Blackbird 9+1, Robert Lambert 9 (withdrawn), Adam Roynon (guest) 6, Rafal Konopka 3+1, Rider replacement for Emil Grondal.