Sunday July 01, 2018
PETERBOROUGH’S sensational season continued with the successful defence of their Championship Fours title at Redcar on Sunday.

The T.Balfe Construction Panthers put in the perfect performance in a format where all-round consistency is vital, and ended up three points clear of Edinburgh in the Final, with silverware safely back in the cabinet.

They are the first team to retain the Fours since Workington in 2008/09, and having triumphed at the East of England Arena last year this result also blew away the theory of home track advantage in major events.

Panthers were the top team all day at the Media Prima Arena, as they proved by being at the head of the standings following the semi-final which involved all eleven clubs.

They were a point clear of Edinburgh, and thankfully five ahead of a frantic scrap for the last two qualifying places with a run-off required to separate Glasgow, Lakeside and Sheffield.

Panthers got off to a super start with a stunning ride by Michael Palm Toft to win a tough Heat 3, getting the better of Dan Bewley and Chris Harris from the back.

The only real setback came when Ulrich Ostergaard ran a last place in Heat 6, but Scott Nicholls and Bradley Wilson-Dean responded by notching five points between them from Peterborough’s next two outings.

That meant at the halfway stage Panthers were nestled in third place, a point behind Redcar and Edinburgh, although eventual Finalists Glasgow were joint-bottom!

Palm Toft won Heat 14 to keep Panthers ticking along, and Ostergaard netted a big three points in Heat 16 as Redcar’s charge hit the buffers with Ben Barker crashing out.

Nicholls was held in third place by Nico Covatti and Lasse Bjerre in Heat 19 but Panthers’ position was still a convincing one as they had opened a five-point gap to the teams outside the top four.

And Wilson-Dean produced an emphatic effort to get the better of Mark Riss and win Heat 20, which vaulted Panthers above Edinburgh and secured their place at the top.

Glasgow and Lakeside took the remaining places in the Final via a three-man run-off as Harris and Nick Morris defeated Bjerre in a three-man run-off.

Panther didn’t enjoy the best of fortunes at the start of the Final with Ostergaard falling in Heat 2, and they had no winners in the first four races.

But no side was able to establish a clear advantage, so second places for Palm Toft, Wilson-Dean and Nicholls kept them very much in touch.

Palm Toft was Panthers’ first winner in Heat 6, and further second places for Ostergaard and Nicholls – following a major scrap with Glasgow’s Richie Worrall, with Nicholls emerging ahead – edged Panthers one point clear of the Tigers, with Edinburgh a further point behind.

Boss Carl Johnson elected to deploy Ostergaard in Heat 9 with the closing four races nominated, and the Dane pulled off a massive win over Claus Vissing, with Edinburgh’s Mark Riss at the back.

That extended the lead to two points, and Palm Toft then took a vital second in Heat 10, crucially with Worrall at the back for Glasgow which doubled the advantage to four.

The Tigers remained in with a chance when Lewis Kerr finished ahead of Wilson-Dean in Heat 11, but Panthers led by three – so they could only be taken into a run-off if Harris won Heat 12 for Glasgow and Nicholls failed to score.

A tense finale ensued as Harris, who won the Fours with Panthers last year, held the lead with Nicholls in third place ahead of Adam Ellis.

But at the start of the last lap, the pressure evaporated as Harris threw a chain and retired from the race, leaving Nicholls to follow maximum man Erik Riss home and start the celebrations in the Panthers camp.

Nicholls said: “There's a togetherness at Peterborough. Everyone is pulling in the right direction and that showed today.

“The spirit is so good with everyone and that gives you a desire to win. I didn't do what I can today but the boys were really strong and got us over the line.

“It's a great boost for the club and totally what the promotion deserve. They've worked hard for this.”

Championship Fours - Qualifying Round, Redcar
Championship Fours - Final, Redcar


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