Sunday October 07, 2018
PETERBOROUGH will need to win away to Lakeside next Sunday to reach the Championship Grand Final.

The table-topping T.Balfe Construction Panthers were beaten 46-44 in a close-fought first leg at the East of England Arena, and now head to Hoddesdon facing a narrow deficit.

That was despite the remarkable efforts of skipper Simon Lambert, who piled up paid-17 from a stunning seven-ride shift from reserve, but the hosts were unable to find the consistency required elsewhere in the order.

Panthers did make a welcome start to proceedings by winning each of the first four races – in stark contrast to the Hammers’ recent visits where their heat-leaders had dominated.

Lambert started his incredible night with a Heat 1 win in which the top men were upstaged, Panthers guest Steve Worrall finishing at the back with Lakeside No.1 Richard Lawson third.

Lambert made it two out of two in Heat 2 after a race-long duel with Ben Morley, just getting the verdict on the finish line, and Ulrich Ostergaard made a fast start from gate two to take control of Heat 3.

The first maximum of the night came in the next as Lambert and Michael Palm Toft got out ahead of Nick Morris, who lifted spectacularly during his chase on the second lap and careered into the fence with Panthers being awarded a 5-1.

But the Hammers hit back through Lawson and Zach Wajtknecht in Heat 5, and Morris prevented an immediate Peterborough response in the next with a last-bend move to stop Lambert from making it four unbeaten rides.

The visitors boosted their containing job with a 5-1 from Adam Ellis and Kyle Newman in Heat 7 as Palm Toft was out-gated, an outcome which levelled the scores on the night.

Panthers, though, took their own maximum in Heat 8 courtesy of Ostergaard and the busy Lambert, who just managed to repel a late challenge from Wajtknecht to put the home side four points up again.

However, a mistake from Emil Grondal on the first turn of Heat 9 enabled Morley to take third place, and a win for Morris narrowed the gap to two – and Panthers were forced into a major Heat 10 rearguard with Lambert and Worrall doing just enough to keep Newman at the back.

A brilliant Heat 11 saw Palm Toft make it around Lawson at the same time as Jordan Stewart was getting the better of Wajtknecht, giving Panthers a four-point advantage.

But it was the Hammers who hit harder in the closing stages with three successive 4-2s, Morris rounding up the entire field to take a fine Heat 13 success whilst Lawson re-passed Palm Toft for third.

Morley was a surprise winner of Heat 14 to help Lakeside into the lead for the first time as Ostergaard missed out, and although Palm Toft rode strongly to keep Morris at bay in Heat 15, a third place for Ellis over Worrall maintained the Hammers’ narrow advantage at the halfway stage of the tie.

Panthers boss Carl Johnson said: “People know how big these meetings are, and you want everybody on their ‘A’ game – unfortunately some of them were way off that tonight.

“It’s not what we wanted or expected, but now we’ve got to pull it out of the bag at their place next week, which we are capable of doing. It’s tough, but it’s do-able.

“I still feel it was the right choice for us to pick Lakeside, it was the better tie for us. If everyone had performed then there wouldn’t have been an issue, and we still know we can run them close there and we’ve beaten them already there this year.

“But we really have to dig in deep now. We know we’ve got to win, and I’m sure we’ll put up a good fight.

“Simon was absolutely fantastic, I think now he’s got his wedding out of the way he’s become a different rider, and he showed again tonight that I can rely on him. The only trouble is that I can’t use him for more than seven rides – tonight if I could, I would have given him at least ten!”

PETERBOROUGH 44: Simon Lambert 16+1, Michael Palm Toft 9+1, Ulrich Ostergaard 9, Steve Worrall 6+1, Jordan Stewart 4, Emil Grondal 0, Bradley Wilson-Dean r/r.
LAKESIDE 46: Adam Ellis 12+1, Nick Morris 10, Richard Lawson 7+1, Ben Morley 7, Zach Wajtknecht 5+1, Kyle Newman 4+2, Alfie Bowtell 1.

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