WINNING START

Friday March 24, 2017
PETERBOROUGH got their SGB Championship challenge off to a successful start last night - by winning the first meeting to be staged in the newly-named second tier of the sport.

The 'T Balfe Construction' Panthers beat Scunthorpe 51-42 at the East of England Showground - a victory wrapped up by skipper Ulrich Ostergaard’s super surge in heat 14.

The captain was the star performer with a 12+2-point haul in a strong, all-round Peterborough showing as they led from start to finish against the Scorpions.

Paul Starke also enjoyed a double-figures competitive debut for the club, which included a hat-trick of heat wins, while fellow winter signings Jack Holder and Kenneth Hansen claimed a couple of triumphs apiece.

And with second-string Simon Lambert, and reserve pair Bradley Wilson-Dean and Tom Bacon, all contributing solidly, Panthers always held the edge despite the best efforts of former Peterborough favourite Michael Palm Toft.

He led the visitors’ challenge with a 15-point return boosted by a successful tactical ride in heat 10 which kept them in contention, but Panthers chief Carl Johnson was always confident his men would finish the job.

“It’s pleasing to get off to a good start for so many different reasons,” said Johnson.

“Of course it’s nice to create that little piece of history by being the first team to win an SGB Championship meeting, but the most important thing was getting a result in front of our fans.

“We sent them home disappointed far too many times last season, so it was nice to be able to pick up a win in front of what looked to be a really good crowd.

“Scunthorpe are similar to ourselves in that they don’t have the so-called big-hitters in their side. We knew they would provide a tough test and they kept themselves close throughout, but I always felt we would have enough to see them off.

“It’s great to win our first meeting when having so many new guys in the team. Everyone did their job and that’s what we need to happen on a regular basis with the way the side has been built.

“The brilliant thing for me was having a tough decision over who to send out in heat 15 – and that’s a nice position to be in.

“It could have been any two from four riders and it was good to see the two that didn’t get the nod were disappointed about it.

“That highlights how hungry and determined everyone in the team is to be successful this season.”

Holder became the first rider to triumph in an SGB Championship heat when making the perfect getaway from the outside to go tapes-to-flag in the opener.

That helped to secure a 4-2 and it was a lead that Panthers would never surrender as they held the edge throughout.

They could count themselves unfortunate not to extend the advantage almost immediately when a spill for Scorpions guest Scott Campos left them sitting on a 5-1 in heat two.

Wilson-Dean overcame a 15-metre starting handicap, after failing to make the initial two minutes, and was in the process of easing into second spot when the visiting rider came down.

But, with Campos already clearing the track, referee Mick Bates slapped on the red lights and ordered a re-run – and, as so often happens, Panthers had to settle for a 3-3 with Fritz Wallner easing round to take victory in his first-ever East of England Showground race.

A shared third heat followed as one skipper got the better of another with Palm Toft darting down the inside of Ostergaard for victory, but Panthers stretched their cushion with back-to-back heat successes.

Kenneth Hansen roared round Josh Auty to inspire a 4-2 in a re-run fourth contest before Starke and Ostergaard sped clear in the next race when Carl Wilkinson tumbled out of third position.

The early signs were encouraging in heat six as well, with Holder and Lambert making smart starts, but a 5-1 position soon turned into the same outcome for the visitors as Wallner swept to the front and Auty moved into second.

Panthers began the process of stretching their advantage again when taking a 4-2 in a re-run seventh contest. The initial staging was halted when Lewis Kerr took a nasty tumble on the opening lap which led to him withdrawing from the remainder of the meeting with a wrist problem.

And the powerful combination of Starke and Ostergaard then combined for a 5-1 in heat nine with the Panthers captain having to work his way back past Auty after initially losing second spot to the Scunthorpe charger.

That opened up a 10-point lead and visiting boss Dave Peet wasted no time in deploying Palm Toft on a tactical mission.

Despite having a warning to stay still ringing in his years after jumping the initial start, the Dane got it spot-on in the re-run of heat 10 and Wallner pounced for third place when Lambert slowed on the final lap, handing Scunthorpe a 7-2.

The Panthers lead remained at five points during a pair of shared races before Holder delivered a dominant success in heat 13 to inspire a 4-2.

The Aussie ace missed all the action in behind as the previously unbeaten Hansen tried everything to find a way past Douglas before having to settle for third place.

It was enough to leave Panthers on the brink of a victory which was secured when Ostergaard sped clear in the penultimate instalment – and what looked set to be a shared race turned into a 4-2 when Wallner crashed going through the third bend on the final lap.

There was still work for Panthers to do in the finale to deny Scunthorpe a consolation point and Ostergaard completed a late double to end the night on a high.

Panthers return to action next Sunday (April 2) when travelling to Scunthorpe for a return clash. The next East of England Showground action is on Sunday, April 9 when Redcar visit for a KO Cup clash.


SCORES

PETERBOROUGH ‘T BALFE CONSTRUCTION’ PANTHERS: Ulrich Ostergaard 12+2, Paul Starke 10+1, Kenneth Hansen 9, Jack Holder 8, Bradley Wilson-Dean 5+3, Simon Lambert 4, Tom Bacon 3.

SCUNTHORPE: Michael Palm Toft 15, Fritz Wallner 9, Ryan Douglas 7+1, Josh Auty 5+1, Carl Wikinson 5, Scott Campos (guest) 1+1, Lewis Kerr 0 (withdrawn).

HEATS
1 - Holder (59.7), Wilkinson, Lambert, Douglas. 4-2, 4-2.
2 - re-run Wallner (62.4), Bacon, Wilson-Dean (15m), Campos (fell/exc). 3-3, 7-5.
3 - re-run Palm Toft (61.2), Ostergaard, Starke, Kerr. 3-3, 10-8.
4 - re-run Hansen (62.0), Auty, Bacon, Campos (15m). 4-2, 14-10.
5 - Starke (61.0), Ostergaard, Douglas, Wilkinson (fell). 5-1, 19-11.
6 - Wallner (62.8), Auty, Lambert, Holder. 1-5, 20-16.
7 - re-run Hansen (62.6), Palm Toft, Wilson-Dean, Kerr (fell/exc). 4-2, 24-18.
8 - Wilkinson (62.7), Lambert, Wilson-Dean, Wallner (fell). 3-3, 27-21.
9 - Starke (62.4), Ostergaard, Auty, Wallner (ret). 5-1, 32-22.
10 - re-run Palm Toft (62.3), Holder, Wallner, Lambert. 2-7, 34-29.
11 - Douglas (awarded), Hansen, Wilson-Dean, Wilkinson (fell/exc). 3-3, 37-32.
12 - Starke (63.7), Wallner, Campos, Bacon. 3-3, 40-35.
13 - Holder (62.1), Douglas, Hansen, Auty. 4-2, 44-37.
14 - Ostergaard (63.3), Palm Toft, Wilson-Dean, Wallner (fell). 4-2, 48-39.
15 - Ostergaard (63.1), Palm Toft, Douglas, Starke. 3-3, 51-42.

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