Sunday September 27, 2015
PETERBOROUGH produced a performance worthy of the occasion to power into the semi-finals of the Premier League play-offs last night (Sunday).

The Readypower Panthers saw off Sheffield 51-38 in the second leg of their stormy quarter-final tie to clinch a convincing 97-82 aggregate triumph.

Their place in the last four was assured with three races to spare as they were roared to glory by a bumper East of England crowd – so big the start had to be delayed briefly due to congestion at the turnstiles!

The supporters did their bit by providing the carnival atmosphere requested by club chief Ged Rathbone . . . and his riders didn’t let him down either despite a number of crashes and mechanical issues.

Panthers were fired to victory by a trio of double-figure displays. Stand-in skipper Simon Lambert and fellow second string Michael Palm Toft shared top-billing with 12+1 respectively while reserve ace Emil Grondal reeled off a hat-trick of heat wins on his way to 11+1.

Palm Toft was one of three Panthers riders to emerge relatively unscathed from heavy spills. World Under 21 Championship runner-up Anders Thomsen and Rafal Konopka were also involved in big accidents while Sheffield guest Kyle Howarth withdrew due to the effects of a tumble in his opening ride.

Proud promoter Rathbone said: "The response from the supporters was fantastic. We don't know exact crowd figures as yet, but it was clearly a great turnout and I thank every single person who made the effort to come along.

"Their backing of the riders was brilliant from start to finish and they certainly played their part in a good night for the club.

"A crowd and occasion like this proves that speedway belongs in the city of Peterborough and hopefully there are even bigger things to come."

Panthers made the perfect, if somewhat painful, start when Palm Toft led in Ben Barker for a maximum return as the opening heat was eventually completed at the third time of asking.

Palm Toft had found himself on the deck after being squeezed up going into the opening bend in the second attempt to stage the opener.

He received lengthy treatment from paramedics and club sports therapist Lauren Wood before being given the green light to continue.

That was the first of four 5-1s in the opening six races as Panthers took control to build on the strong foundations provided by their 46-44 first-leg triumph in Sheffield 10 days earlier.

A hat-trick of full houses followed between heats four and six with Grondal taking the flag for the first of them before Lambert completed a quickfire double. He had Thomsen in tow in heat five before Palm Toft watched his back in the next race.

Panthers would have been even further clear had Konopka not crashed out of second place in a second heat awarded as a 3-3 by referee Dale Entwistle.

A couple of 5-1s from the Sheffield duo of top-scorer Nicolai Klindt and captain Josh Bates in the space of four races showed the Tigers were not about to simply roll over.

But Panthers weren’t about to loosen their grip on the tie either and they duly clinched their passage when Thomsen sped past Klindt to secure a 4-2 in heat 12 and put the aggregate outcome beyond doubt.

It was a fine move from a rider left on the deck in his previous outing when caught up in a second-bend incident that also saw Sheffield reserve Michele Castagna come down. Thomsen also won the re-run off that race.

Konopka became the third Panthers rider to suffer a heavy spill when piling into the fence in heat 11 after losing control going through the fourth bend. Thankfully the Polish reserve was able to walk away from the spectacular crash.

It also proved to be a costly night for Barker as he was hit by bike gremlins at the start of heat 13 (won in fine, solo style by Palm Toft) while it would be remiss not to mention a stunning move from Sheffield ace Bates to scythe past Lambert and Grondal in one fine move to grab victory in the penultimate race.

Bates also helped his side to an advantage in the finale, but Panthers’ success had long since been sewn up by then.

Their reward is a semi-final showdown against reigning champions Edinburgh with the first leg taking place at the East of England Showground on Sunday (October 4, 5pm).

The return clash in Scotland against the table-toppers and League Cup winners is scheduled for Friday, October 9.


READYPOWER PANTHERS: Simon Lambert 12+1, Michael Palm Toft 12+1, Emil Grondal 11+1, Ben Barker 8+2, Anders Thomsen 8+1, Rafal Konopka 0, Rider replacement for Ulrich Ostergaard.

SHEFFIELD: Nicolai Klindt 13+1, Josh Bates 10+1, Andre Compton 6, David Bellego 4, Michele Castagna 3+1, Robin Aspegren 2+1, Kyle Howarth (guest) 0.

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