Sunday March 25, 2018
PETERBOROUGH withstood a late Lakeside fightback for a 46-44 win in their Championship Shield opener at the East of England Arena on Sunday.

A meeting of changing fortunes and multiple race winners saw the T.Balfe Construction Panthers race into a twelve-point lead with ten heats completed.

The Hammers, though, had the better of the closing stages with reserve Zach Wajktnecht twice taking the flag – but Michael Palm Toft’s second place in a hard Heat 14 battle with Kyle Newman proved crucial, especially as the visitors collected a 5-1 in the last race.

Eleven of the fourteen riders on show won at least one heat, with Emil Grondal the stand-out performer for the Panthers with paid-12 on his return to the team.

Reserves Simon Lambert and Tom Bacon set the hosts on their way with a 5-1 in Heat 2 after Ben Morley’s shock opening-race win for the Hammers.

Ulrich Ostergaard fended off the attentions of Richard Lawson to win Heat 4, which was the first of back-to-back Panthers 4-2s although Lakeside No.1 Nick Morris did manage to split Nike Lunna and Michael Palm Toft in the latter.

Grondal charged past Lawson and Watjknecht in the early stages of Heat 6 for a fine win, and after a Lakeside 4-2 in the next it was Grondal to the fore again in Heat 8 with a spectacular outside effort to pass first Alfie Bowtell and then Morley for a 5-1 with captain Lambert.

That left the Hammers becoming the first team to name a tactical substitute under the revised 2018 regulations – but Adam Ellis’s extra outing in Heat 9 saw him relegated to third place by a smart mid-race pass from Palm Toft.

And when Grondal and Nicholls teamed up for maximum points in Heat 10 over Ellis and Kyle Newman, Panthers looked to be home and dry.

Lakeside, however, provided all of the last five race winners, three from Morris who took Heats 11 and 13 with his partner at the rear – whilst Wajtknecht and Ellis reduced the arrears to eight with maximum points in Heat 12.

Newman was forceful on Palm Toft in Heat 14 in an incident which assisted Wajtknecht to the front, but the Panthers man was determined to salvage second place and his re-pass on Newman was a vital move.

Morris and Ellis duly secured a Lakeside 5-1 in Heat 15, and although it wasn’t enough to spoil the Panthers’ victory it did ensure the visitors return to Purfleet with a group point in the bag.

Panthers boss Carl Johnson said: “It’s good to get the first meeting out of the way with a win – yes, it was narrow in the end, but a win’s a win and we can move on from it.

“We always expected a tough meeting as it was the first time on-track competitively for the majority of our riders, whereas several of the Lakeside boys have already had a few meetings.

“They’re a good side, and so it was important to hit them early and get into a position where hopefully we couldn’t be caught.

“I think the track did catch a few of our boys out, and being a night meeting it was very different to press and practice, but on the whole it was an exciting meeting to watch and there was some really good racing, which is good for the crowd.

“We know there’s more to come because Scott (Nicholls) had an off-night compared to what he will do for us, and it was Nike’s (Lunna) first meeting back after a long injury absence, but he looked good when he was in front.

“So we’ll take the positives from winning the meeting against a good team with riders who go well around our place, and now we’ll work hard to prepare for next week.”

Panthers return to action next Sunday, April 1 (7pm) with what promises to be a terrific local derby battle with neighbours Ipswich.

PETERBOROUGH 46: Emil Grondal 11+1, Ulrich Ostergaard 9, Michael Palm Toft 8, Simon Lambert 7+1, Scott Nicholls 4+3, Tom Bacon 4+1, Nike Lunna 3.
LAKESIDE 44: Nick Morris 11, Adam Ellis 10+2, Zach Wajtknecht 8+1, Richard Lawson 7, Kyle Newman 4+1, Ben Morley 4, Alfie Bowtell 0.

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