Peterborough Panthers v Swindon 'Pebley Beach Suzuki & Edge Logistics' Robins Sky Sports Elite League B Monday 18th September 2006
Panthers secured home advantage in the play-offs after a rousing performance in front of Sky Sports TV cameras.
After last week’s poor showing against title contenders Reading some much-needed team bonding took place. And club boss Colin Horton gave the riders star treatment as they were presented to the crowd in a limo.
But could the team live up to the hype? And would the track, which proved to be Panthers’ nemesis last week, be to their liking?
In both cases the answer turned out to be ‘yes’. But there were still plenty of nerves jangling as the riders lined up at the tapes for the first race. With Swindon winning the coin toss for gate positions Captain Leigh Adams shot out in front. But the race was brought to an early halt as Renat Gafurov careered into the second bend air fence.
The lengthy delay which followed did little to settle the nerves and when the re-run got underway with a 4-2 going to Swindon it was a worrying start. Panthers had been on course for a 3-3 but some mechanical gremlins saw Gafurov pass Ulrich Ostergaard.
Heat 2 was another re-run after Swindon’s Mads Korneliussen rode into the tapes and had to start from 15 metres back. At the second time of asking, Richard Hall made the gate and led from tapes to flag while Panthers’ other reserve Piotr Swiderski, who was absent during last week’s defeat, did all the work at the back to make his way into second spot.
And Panthers followed up that 5-1 with another courtesy of Ryan Sullivan and Niels Kristian Iversen – the latter doing it the hard way as he had to pass both Swindon riders – to put Panthers in the lead 12-6.
An apt comment from announcer Edwin Overland: “Can we go home now?” summed up the feelings of many Panthers’ fans.
Instead the Alwalton faithful had to endure four more heats before Panthers secured another heat advantage in heat 8. But it was worth waiting for as Ostergaard delighted the fans with a battling performance to secure a 5-1 with Swiderski.
Two 3-3’s followed - Sullivan out in front and Iversen trailing at the back (with a bent foot rest after he clipped the fence) in heat 9 and Hans Andersen recording his first race win of the night in heat 10. But the score line was still six points in Panthers’ favour and Swindon were unable to make use of the double tactical rule.
The visitors showed that they still had some fight left in them, however, with the consistent Adams winning heat 10 and Gafurov finishing third to give Swindon their first heat advantage since heat 6 and to take the scores to 35-31.
A last heat decider suddenly appeared to be on the cards. But Panthers could not afford to let that happen.
Iversen gated in heat 12 with Swiderski finding a way round the outside to give Panthers a 5-1 before Andersen contributed another race win and Jesper B Jensen – who admitted: “I have been struggling a bit in my head. I’ve not been relaxed. You need a lot of rides when you come back from injury” – went wide to take second spot.
That race had been brought to a premature halt when Adams fell on the fourth bend but the referee Robbie Perks did the sensible thing and awarded it with Panthers clearly out front.
With the gap now 12 points, Swindon team manager Alun Rossiter sent former Panther Lee Richardson, who had a win and a second place to his name, out in the black and white helmet colour.
But a mistake from Richardson in the first bend proved costly. He went wide to block Sullivan evidently forgetting about Hall who nipped up the inside and went on to win the race. Hall joked in the press conference afterwards: “I thought cheers Lee”.
And Sullivan, who won the last race of the night to tally 12+2 commented: “We weren’t going to let it slip this week.”
But now they must make sure that they ‘don’t let it slip’ next week…
Report by Sarah Tooze
Peterborough Panthers = 53 (99)
1: Hans Andersen - 2,2,3,3 = 10 2: Ulrich Ostergaard - 0,0,2*,0 = 2+1 3: Niels Kristian Iversen - 2*,2,ef,2* = 6+2 4: Ryan Sullivan - 3,1*,3,2*,3 = 12+2 5: Jesper B Jensen - 2,2,0,2* = 6+1 6: Richard Hall - 3,1*,2,3 = 9+1 7: Piotr Swiderski - 2*,0,3,3,0 = 8+1