It’s crunch time for the Pan­thers

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Classifieds - By MARK PLUMMER

PAN­THERS are pre­par­ing for a crunch spell in their Elite League play-offs quest.

The city club have only com­pleted three com­pet­i­tive meet­ings in a weather-plagued open­ing to the 2012 sea­son, but they have al­ready ar­rived at what is a key pe­riod in the eyes of joint team boss Trevor Swales.

Pan­thers face eight meet­ings in the space of just 21 days, start­ing with back-to-back trips to Birm­ing­ham tonight and Lake­side Ham­mers to­mor­row.

And de­spite hav­ing just two home out­ings in the hec­tic spell dur­ing the re­main­der of May, Swales be­lieves it is a time in which his men must lay the foun­da­tions for a top-four chal­lenge.

He said: “It looks like be­ing a wide open league this year and I would have thought at least eight out of the 10 teams have a re­al­is­tic chance of mak­ing the play-offs.

“I ob­vi­ously in­clude our­selves in that but we have found out in the past how dif­fi­cult it is to try and play catch-up so we have to get our­selves up there in con­tention for a top-four spot right from the word go.

“It has not been an ideal sce­nario by any means so far with meet­ings be­ing lost to the weather but that’s some­thing we just have to ac­cept and move on.

“I’m pleased with what we achieved in the three meet­ings we have com­pleted and now we need to make sure we re­turn in top form.

“May is a re­ally busy month and a re­ally im­por­tant one too. We need to make the most of the meet­ings com­ing up by putting plenty of points on the board even though the ma­jor­ity of them are away.”

Pan­thers make just their third visit to Perry Barr to face the Brum­mies since their re­turn to the Elite League last year ahead of a sec­ond visit of the sea­son to Lake­side. They got no fur­ther than the chang­ing rooms last month when this match be­came one of four post­pone­ments they have en­dured al­ready in the early weeks of the 2012 sea­son.

Rene Bach and Richard Law­son get the nod for Pan­thers in the two dou­bling-up po­si­tions on both nights.

Bach is cur­rently be­ing pre­ferred to Lasse Bjerre in the sec­ond string berth while Law­son con­tin­ues to be first-choice at re­serve de­spite some fine in­di­vid­ual per­for­mances from Kyle New­man re­cently.

New­man has ad­vanced to the World Un­der 21 Cham­pi­onship semi­fi­nals and the Euro­pean Un­der 21 Fi- nal over the last two week­ends.

He was dubbed ‘a credit to Bri­tish speed­way’ by na­tional Un­der 21 boss Phil Mor­ris but can’t oust Law­son to earn a com­pet­i­tive Pan­thers de­but.

Law­son now has a new part­ner at re­serve af­ter ex­pe­ri­enced Dane Jesper B. Mon­berg dropped down the or­der with free-scor­ing Michael Jepsen Jensen head­ing the other way into the main body of the team.

Swales added: “Birm­ing­ham is still a rel­a­tively new track and they still have a big home ad­van­tage there while Lake­side is as tech­ni­cal and tricky as they come.

“We know we’re in for two tough meet­ings but we al­ways hit the road with the aim of bring­ing back all four points and it will be no dif­fer­ent on the next two nights.

“Should that not prove pos­si­ble we have to en­sure we pick up at least one point as an ab­so­lute min­i­mum.”

Pan­thers: Ken­neth Bjerre, Rene Bach, Olly Allen, Michael Jepsen Jensen, Li­nus Sund­strom, Richard Law­son, Jesper B. Mon­berg.

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