Thursday May 03, 2018
PETERBOROUGH fought to the very end to snatch two league points from a 45-45 draw at reigning champions Sheffield on Thursday.

The T.Balfe Construction Panthers gave as good as they got throughout a terrific Owlerton contest and secured the result with 4-2s in each of the last two races.

Michael Palm Toft played a key part with a win in Heat 14 and third place in the decider – whilst skipper Simon Lambert edged out Jan Graversen for third in the former race, and No.1 Scott Nicholls showed all of his class to win Heat 15 ahead of the spectacular Charles Wright.

Nicholls won three races in a super display from the former British Champion, with the top five all making solid contributions – and whilst the reserves had tougher evenings, both salvaged crucial points in the closing stages.

Panthers had the perfect start with an opening-race 5-1 from Nicholls and Emil Grondal, only for that to be cancelled out immediately by the home reserves.

Ulrich Ostergaard won his opening ride as he fended off Wright in Heat 4, and a rapid win from Grondal over Lasse Bjerre with Nicholls third in the next put Panthers back ahead.

Ostergaard looked set to double up in Heat 6 but unluckily suffered a puncture which allowed Todd Kurtz to pass him on the last lap – although misfortune also befell the hosts, whose No.1 Kyle Howarth took no further part with a twisted knee.

Palm Toft recorded his first win of the night in Heat 7 with Nike Lunna supplying third place for a 4-2, before the hosts went ahead for the first time with maximum points from Kurtz and James Shanes in the next.

Panthers trailed by four points going into Heat 10 but looked set to level the scores as they held a 5-1 position, only for Wright to pull off a stunning ride to pass first Palm Toft and then, going into the last bend, Lunna for a 3-3.

But Nicholls and Grondal picked up a 4-2 in Heat 11, split by Wright, and Tom Bacon’s third place ahead of Shanes in a shared Heat 12 was pivotal to the final outcome.

Wright surged around Nicholls in Heat 13 with Bjerre third for a 4-2 to make it 41-37, but Palm Toft dominated Heat 14 with Lambert vitally moving inside Graversen on the opening lap as Panthers cut the gap back to two.

That left them needing a 5-1 from Heat 15 to snatch victory or another 4-2 for a draw, and after Bjerre was squeezed out going into the first bend Nicholls raced clear to ensure there would be no heroics from Wright on this occasion, with Palm Toft holding a comfortable third to square the match.

Manager Carl Johnson said: “We were confident that we could come here and get points, and we did so and deserved to do so.

“We could have won it if it wasn’t for Ulrich’s puncture, so that was unlucky – obviously they also lost Kyle, but they did have quality replacements and it was always going to be difficult.

“I’ve said all along that we do expect to be pushed at home, and have some close wins there, but we’ll also win meetings away from home. We are going to push teams on the road, and we’ve proved it again.

“There’s still more to come. The reserves probably didn’t score what we were expecting, but it’s always tough and we can’t expect them to score five to eight points every meeting.

“Tonight it was the top-liners who were superb, everybody chipped in – Michael was strong, and Nike had one of his best meetings which was good to see.

“Emil was fantastic in his first two rides, and it was great to see Scott getting back to what we know he can do, winning races and looking good at the same time.”

SHEFFIELD 45: Charles Wright 14, Lasse Bjerre 12, James Shanes 9+2, Todd Kurtz 7, Jack Smith 2+1, Kyle Howarth 1, Jan Graversen 0
PETERBOROUGH 45: Scott Nicholls 12, Michael Palm Toft 9+2, Nike Lunna 7, Ulrich Ostergaard 7, Emil Grondal 6+1, Tom Bacon 2+1, Simon Lambert 2
Championship points: Sheffield 1 Peterborough 2

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