NEWCASTLE 47 PANTHERS 43

Sunday August 19, 2018
PETERBOROUGH picked up what could prove a crucial league point in a narrow 47-43 defeat at Newcastle on Sunday.

But in a controversial finale, they were left feeling that one point should have been two, as guest Paul Starke was disqualified from Heat 15 after Diamonds No.1 Stuart Robson came to grief.

Panthers went into the final race at Brough Park needing a 5-1 from Scott Nicholls and Starke to force a draw.

That would have represented a remarkable recovery from a 10-point deficit after Heat 10, with Nicholls and Starke having already combined for maximum points when they raced together in Heat 13 and saw off Ludvig Lindgren and Robson.

But the focus shifted when Starke was adjudged the cause of Robson ending up on the deck when the Panthers rider appeared to have made a clean pass.

That meant Nicholls had to avoid conceding a 5-1 in the re-run to ensure the visitors took their league point – and he was more than good enough for that, as he raced to an emphatic win over Matej Kus and Robson.

It completed another strong display from the Panthers’ No.1 following his paid maximum at Berwick on Saturday, although things didn’t start well as Nicholls conceded maximum points to Robson and Tero Aarnio in the opening race.

That setback was effectively cancelled out by Starke and reserve Tom Bacon with an excellent 5-1 over Lindgren and Matthew Wethers in Heat 4, but Bacon crashed in his next outing as the Diamonds recorded back-to-back 4-2s.

Nicholls replaced Bradley Wilson-Dean as a tactical substitute in Heat 7 and promptly partnered Michael Palm Toft to a 5-1, narrowing the gap to two points.

But the home side took control of the meeting with successive maximums of their own to give them a 32-22 advantage.

The comeback began in Heat 11 with Bacon picking up third place ahead of Carl Wilkinson, as Nicholls quickly made his way past Lindgren on the opening lap.

Wilson-Dean got some reward for a tough weekend with a race win in Heat 12 before Starke and Nicholls collected maximum points in the next.

Heat 14 specialist Palm Toft did it again in the penultimate race, but on this occasion Bacon missed out as the Diamonds stayed four points to the good.

And that remained the case after the finale as Nicholls confirmed Panthers would take some reward from the meeting, and move two points clear at the top of the table ahead of their visit to Ipswich on Thursday.

Manager Carl Johnson said: “It’s a good point, but it should have been two because the wrong decision cost us in the end.

“It’s one of those things and we have to accept it, but it’s very hard to take when the rider who went down openly admits that he was never hit. That’s the hardest thing.

“Starkey had gone inside Robbo, he’d gone under him and gone past him, and it was just the wrong call. I spoke to the referee and he said he hit him with his dirt deflector, but we could see from where we were that it was never the case.

“Starkey knew he hadn’t touched him, he knew he’d got the pass done, and Robbo at the end admitted he was nowhere near him. But these are split-second decisions, it’s hard for the referee and he gives what he sees – unfortunately it went against us, so hopefully we can reach the play-off Final and get a decision our way there!

“So we’re happy in some ways because we always go away looking for a point, but it should have been two, and obviously we carried two riders tonight, which makes things hard, but you have to accept that sometimes.

“It’s not always going to be like that, but so often in these meetings it’s just one or two points that make all the difference.

“There’s nothing we can do about it, we’ll dig in again as we did tonight to get ourselves back into it, and we’ll take the point.

“Everyone has come through the weekend, Tofty is still a bit sore but Bradley felt better today and it was a big decision to take him out of his second ride, but it was a decision we had to make at the time to get us back into it.”

NEWCASTLE 47: Matej Kus 11+1, Stuart Robson 10+1, Matthew Wethers 7+3, Tero Aarnio 6+1, Ashley Morris 5+1, Ludvig Lindgren 5, Carl Wilkinson 3.
PETERBOROUGH 43: Scott Nicholls 14+1, Michael Palm Toft 10+1, Paul Starke 9, Tom Bacon 6+1, Bradley Wilson-Dean 4+1, Simon Lambert 0, Emil Grondal 0.

Picture: STEVE BROCK

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