Sunday April 15, 2018
PETERBOROUGH made the perfect start to their Championship campaign with a 51-39 win over Redcar at the East of England Arena.

A super-solid all-round display saw the T.Balfe Construction Panthers control a meeting which was held in changeable weather conditions, and prevent the visitors from leaving with a league point.

All seven riders secured at least one win or paid win, with Paul Starke proving an ideal guest for the injured Michael Palm Toft as he notched a 12-point haul on his old home track.

There were two wins apiece for Scott Nicholls and skipper Simon Lambert whilst Emil Grondal was unbeaten from his first three outings.

Nike Lunna came good with a Heat 12 victory whilst Tom Bacon carded a terrific paid-seven including a super second place in a 5-1 with Ulrich Ostergaard in Heat 7 – and Ostergaard’s own score would have been higher but for an unfortunate fall when within sight of victory in Heat 11.

All of that meant the Bears were limited to five race wins, two of them in the final two races when Panthers’ points were already safe – and it was in the mid-stages of the meeting when the home side did the damage.

Rain on the stroke of start-time meant some caution was the order of the day, and with the scores level after four races Panthers had a stroke of fortune in Heat 5 when Jordan Stewart crashed out of second place and a potential Redcar 5-1 was lost.

Peterborough edged back in front with Grondal’s second win in Heat 6 as Nicholls overhauled Matej Kus for third, and they then took a grip with successive 5-1s in the next two races.

First Ostergaard shot to the front of Heat 7 on turn two, before Bacon got his rewards for chasing Jonas B Andersen by moving inside him going into the final bend.

That was backed up by Lambert and Grondal in Heat 8 to put the Panthers ten points to the good, and although Bears’ No.1 Ben Barker came into Heat 10 as a tactical substitute the move was neutralised by Nicholls’ first win after a splendid battle between the pair on the opening lap with Tobias Busch also involved for Redcar.

Ostergaard appeared set to defeat Barker in the next only to cruelly come down off the final turn, but Lunna eased any nerves with a win in Heat 12 before Nicholls and Ostergaard locked up the points with a clear 5-1 over Barker and Kus in the thirteenth.

After a shared Heat 14 the match ended in a degree of pantomime with both Redcar riders being disqualified from the last race for exceeding the two-minute warning – after they had appeared on-track with the wrong helmet colours!

Eventually Barker went back off the 15-metre handicap whilst reserve Pijper replaced Mikkel B Andersen – and the Dutchman promptly headed home Starke and Ostergaard for another 3-3!

Panthers boss Carl Johnson said: “We were solid again, which is what we’ve been doing all season so far, and the good thing is I still feel we have a lot more to come as a complete team.

“We could have scored more points and were a little unlucky at times, but it was still a good win and there was also some good racing – it wasn’t really spoilt by the weather.

“We did contemplate calling it (off) after Heat 13 but they wanted to carry on so we did a little more work and got it all the way through, which is credit to everyone.

“You had to be careful, but the surface was good enough and it brought out some cracking racing, so credit to the riders for putting on a show like they did.”

PETERBOROUGH 51: Paul Starke 12, Emil Grondal 8+1, Scott Nicholls 8, Simon Lambert 7, Ulrich Ostergaard 6+2, Tom Bacon 5+2, Nike Lunna 5+1.
REDCAR 39: Tobias Busch 9+2, Ben Barker 9, Theo Pijper 8+2, Jonas B Andersen 4+1, Matej Kus 4, Mikkel B Andersen 3, Jordan Stewart 2.

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