ADVANTAGE PANTHERS AFTER PLAY-OFF COMEBACK

Thursday September 17, 2015
PETERBOROUGH produced a sensational fightback to sink Sheffield in the first leg of their Premier League play-offs quarter-final.

The Readypower Panthers were on the receiving end of a hat-trick of 5-1s in the opening three races of their grudge match against the Tigers.

But they delivered a rousing revival at Owlerton spearheaded by maximum man Ben Barker to turn a 12-point deficit into a two-point victory.

Barker reeled off six victories and received some fine support from his team-mates as they gradually ate into their arrears before hitting the front courtesy of a penultimate race 5-1 from Emil Grondal and Michael Palm Toft.

It was an incredible turnaround which drew high praise from joint team boss Carl Johnson.

He said: “It wasn’t the ideal start by any means, but it is not the first time we have started a meeting slowly and I always felt we could come back at Sheffield.

“We have great spirit and great strength. We always stick together and believe in each other.

“Of course we didn’t expect to win the meeting from that position, but we knew we could put them under pressure. To get the result as well is a huge bonus.

“I can't praise Ben enough. He is a great lad on and off the track who helps all his team-mates and wins races himself.

“It is not easy to get a maximum on the road, but he did it with ease.

“Everyone deserves praise though for playing a part in what turned out to be a very good night.

"The other riders all chipped in with points to give Ben the support to turn the meeting around.”

Panthers were beaten from the gate in the opening three races as hosts Sheffield powered into the driving seat, but Barker stemmed the tide when taking victory in a fourth-heat re-run after Grondal had been excluded in the initial staging.

That was the first of six successive race wins from Peterborough men with Barker doing the honours on three occasions, but it was a 5-1 from guest Jonas B. Andersen and Michael Palm Toft in heat seven that allowed them to take the first sizable chunk out of their deficit.

Barker and captain Simon Lambert then combined to great effect twice in the space of three races with a heat 11 5-1 and a heat 13 4-2 slashing their arrears to just two points.

And even better was to follow as Grondal led home Palm Toft for a terrific maximum in the penultimate race to fire Panthers ahead for the first time.

That’s how it stayed as Barker completed his full house in the finale to leave Panthers as favourites to progress to the semi-finals.

But Johnson stressed: “We’re only halfway there. We have to forget about this meeting now and focus on winning the second leg as well.

“If we do that we will be in the semi-finals and that’s what everyone wants.

“Sheffield will possibly regret making us go there on a date when we made it clear we didn’t want to ride.

“But if we had travelled on a different day with a full side I think the end result would have been even better.”

SCORES

SHEFFIELD: David Bellego 11+1, Josh Bates 9+1, Jason Garrity 8+1, Robin Aspegren 7+1, Nicolai Klindt 4+3, Andre Compton 3+1, Paco Castagna 2+1.

READYPOWER PANTHERS: Ben Barker 18 (max), Jonas Andersen 8+1, Emil Grondal 8, Simon Lambert 6+1, Michael Palm Toft 5+3, Rafal Konopka 1, Rider replacement for Ulrich Ostergaard.

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