Wednesday July 04, 2018
PETERBOROUGH boss Carl Johnson has given an insight into the tactics behind Sunday’s Championship Fours triumph at Redcar.

The T.Balfe Construction Panthers held control at key stages of the event, including topping the scorechart after the semi-final, and then crucially after eight of the twelve races in the Final.

That meant Johnson was able to assess exactly where to place his riders for Heats 9-12 with the other teams having already selected – and he says he managed to remain calm throughout the decider, when a point was required by Panthers No.1 Scott Nicholls!

Johnson said: “I don’t ever tend to struggle with nerves. I’m not saying I’m always confident, but one good thing for me was being able to look at the last four races and have last pick of who raced where.

“I looked at who was already in the races and who I thought would do the best job, and I felt the last race was probably going to be the toughest.

“I put my cards on the most experienced man to be in that position, hoping that it would be finished before then and we wouldn’t need it, as was the case last year when the mentality was exactly the same and we had it done and dusted before Heat 12.

“Obviously it didn’t work out that way this time and we needed that one point, or we needed Bomber (Chris Harris) not to win it.

“It was probably one of the toughest races Scott has been in for a long while, but he got the job done, and whilst it was unfortunate for Chris (who dropped a chain) I still think we would have got that one point anyway – it just stopped Glasgow from finishing second.

“The overall message was that it’s important not to run last places in a tournament like that. You have to be sensible, pick up the one and two points, and then go for the wins if they’re there.

“We said to the boys, after a couple of laps think about settling for where you’re sitting, because it’s better to take the odd point in certain races rather than pushing yourself too far and finishing last.

“We wanted to keep the points ticking over and we knew we were always in with a chance. We did have a couple of last places, which is to be expected with that many races in such a tough line-up, but we had enough to cover for them.

“We always like to be professional wherever we are, and this meeting was no different. You don’t always have to win races to win overall – as Mark Loram found out when he became World Champion!”

Panthers’ celebrations were enjoyed by all involved in the club, as well as a terrific following of supporters who had made the journey to the Media Prima Arena.

The event had moved up to the North-East this year after several years at the East of England Arena, which had been regarded as the traditional home of the Fours.

And ironically that meant that whilst the home-town success had belonged to Johnson last year, this time it was promoter Ged Rathone who celebrated victory at his most local track.

Johnson said: “It was very different – obviously 2017 was really special with it being in front of our home crowd, and with me being a Peterborough lad as well.

“It’s always nice to win trophies in front of your home fans, but on Sunday we had a lot of travelling support so it was just as special, and I certainly don’t mind it being different if it means we end up taking the trophy!

“Michael (Palm Toft) had never won the Fours before, and it was also pleasing that Ellis (Perks) was there and picked up a trophy in his last official meeting for us.

“Any politics that goes with it doesn’t mean anything to me. I’m passionate about speedway, I’m not interested in the paperwork that goes on behind the scenes and I just go out and try to get the boys to do the best job they can wherever we are.

“Sunday was no different. It was the same mentality – take the semi-final as it comes, finishing top there gave us first choice of riding position for the Final, and then again we wanted to be on top going into the last four heats for last choice on selections.

“Last year we struggled in the semi-final but dominated the Final, but this year we were top after the semi and we were leading before the final four races, and we deserved to win it. It was great to be that dominant throughout the day.”

*Panthers will parade the Fours silverware ahead of their next home meeting against Scunthorpe on Friday July 13. They also stage a double-header against Lakeside (KOC) and Sheffield on Sunday July 15.

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