Peterborough Panthers suffered another major injury blow as Lewis Blackbird crashed out of their narrow Premier League KO Cup triumph today (May 25)
The city racers pipped Plymouth 46-44 in the first leg of a first round tie at the East of England Showground.
It means they will face a tough task to advance in this competition, but of considerably more concern was the condition of Blackbird – the third Panthers rider to be badly hurt in an Alwalton smash already this season.
The locally born-and-based racer suffered a suspected broken jaw when hitting the deck heavily in heat nine. He was also complaining of back pain and the meeting was delayed by more than an hour as he was treated by track paramedics before being transferred into a county ambulance and taken to Peterborough City Hospital.
“It was a very nasty-looking crash,” admitted Panthers team boss Carl Johnson. “And we are not exactly sure what caused it.
“From where I was stood in the pits, it looked like either his chain snapped or his engine seized, but when the mechanics brought his bike back into the pits the chain was still intact and the motor was turning over.
“Lewis was very groggy and can’t really recall what happened so it is a bit of a mystery.
“The one thing we do know is that he took a hell of a whack when he came down. His jaw doesn’t look too clever and he was complaining of pain in his back.
“We’ll hopefully know a bit more after I’ve been down to the hospital to see him tonight. They know me on first-name terms down there now as we’ve had so many injuries this season.”
Panthers fell some way short of Johnson’s pre-meeting target of a double-figures advantage In the circumstances that was perhaps understandable although few supporters, in what early indications suggested was the largest crowd of the season, will have been disappointed.
The standard of action was terrific with a stunning heat 13 an obvious contender for race of the season. Michael Palm Toft emerged victorious over visiting pair Kyle Newman and Ryan Fisher with his partner, Robert Lambert, squeezed out at the rear after a titanic four-lap, four-man tussle.
Red-hot reserve Simon Lambert was the star Panthers performer as he piled up 15+1 points from a full seven-ride shift which included an appearance in heat 15.
The finale didn’t go to plan as he and skipper Ulrich Ostergaard were both passed by Plymouth man Jack Holder, who followed in his own captain, Newman, for a 5-1 that slashed the Devils’ arrears.
It also meant that duo book-ended the meeting with maximums after also bagging a full-house in the opener, although their lead lasted for just two races as Lambert and Blackbird inspired back-to-back 4-2s from Panthers.
The hosts eased into an eight-point advantage courtesy of two 5-1s in the space of three races – both of which were secured in dramatic style as they picked the pocket of former Panthers man Fisher.
Robert Lambert caught him napping for second spot in the closing stages of a fourth heat won by namesake Simon and Palm Toft did likewise moments later to follow in Ostergaard.
Plymouth gradually clawed their way back into close proximity with new signing Todd Kurtz twice inspiring 4-2s and Fisher doing likewise in the re-run of heat nine as the action resumed after Blackbird’s exit.
Panthers looked to have given themselves some welcome breathing space when Simon Lambert teamed up with fellow reserve Ollie Greenwood for a terrific 5-1 in heat 14, but Plymouth replied in kind almost immediately to set-up a humdinger of a second leg on June 18.
Johnson added: “We have won twice at Plymouth already this season and we will now need to put in another good performance to make progress in this competition.
“There is no reason why we can’t do that although Plymouth are clearly a much stronger team now than they were earlier in the season.”
Panthers return to action on Friday (May 29) when they put their unbeaten Premier League record on the line against Berwick at the Showground (7.30pm).
PANTHERS: Simon Lambert 15+1, Ulrich Ostergaard 9, Michael Palm Toft 8+2, Robert Lambert 8+1, Ollie Greenwood 3+1, Lewis Blackbird 3 (withdrawn), Rider replacement for Olly Allen.
PLYMOUTH: Kyle Newman 11+1, Jack Holder 10+3 Todd Kurtz 8, Ryan Fisher 6+1, Morten Risager 5, Sam Simota 4, Matt Williamson (guest) 0.