Pan­thers fight back to pro­vide a happy end­ing

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Neighbourhood News - By MARK PLUMMER mark.plummer@jpress.co.uk

PAN­THERS .................. 51 BIRM­ING­HAM .............. 42 (Elite League – Pan­thers 3pts, Birm­ing­ham 0pts) PAN­THERS re­turned to win­ning ways on a day that veered from far­ci­cal to fab­u­lous.

The city side over­came plenty of bad plan­ning and a fair bit of bad luck to sink Birm­ing­ham at the East of Eng­land Show­ground last night.

It pro­vided a happy end to a few hours which had seen one rider sacked, an­other hired, a new-look line-up thrown out and the loss of key man Olly Allen to in­jury af­ter crash­ing in the first corner of his first ride.

Allen was dumped on the deck by Birm­ing­ham man Josh Auty at the start of heat four and the sus­pi­cion of plenty of Show­ground spec­ta­tors was that Auty had been rather naughty in that in­ci­dent.

Allen de­parted with rib dam­age (some­thing which ranks him as a big doubt for away trips to Poole on Wed­nes­day and Swin­don on Thurs­day) and that meant the two Pan­thers re­serves were left to take his rides.

With chief bot­tom-end scorer Jesper B. Mon­berg sit­ting at home in Den­mark with his fu­ture in the air, the bur­den was left to Richard Law­son and late guest call-up Ja­son Bun­yan.

Things were look­ing even more pear-shaped when they trailed by three points with just three races re­main­ing, but Pan­thers dug deep in the face of ad­ver­sity and pow­ered to glory in spec­tac­u­lar style in their first home out­ing for six-and-a-half weeks thanks to a hat-trick of 5-1s in the final three races.

Cap­tain Ken­neth Bjerre, Swedish star Li­nus Sund­strom (two riders who dropped only a point apiece to op­po­nents) and the over­worked Law­son pro­vided those fine re­sults.

“It just shows the spirit in the team,” said skip­per Bjerre, the scorer of 13+1 points. “The boys stuck to­gether dur­ing a tough night and we got the re­sult we all wanted.

“It was nice to fin­ish the meet­ing so well and get all three points on a night when we lost a rider in­jured early on – and it was great to be back rac­ing at our home track again.”

Team dec­la­ra­tions and in­juries didn’t pro­vide the only hitches as the open­ing race lasted five laps be­fore ref­eree Peter Clarke stepped in to bring pro­ceed­ings to a halt.

It ended in a share of the spoils with the Bjerre broth­ers poles apart – Ken­neth out in front and Lasse at the rear – but Pan­thers were quickly be­hind af­ter an Auty-in­spired 4-2 for the vis­i­tors in the sec­ond con­test.

That soon changed when Michael Jepsen Jensen blazed a trail to glory in heat three and part­ner Sund­strom was soon in his wheel-tracks for a 51 af­ter zoom­ing round the out­side of

Ken­neth Bjerre (red hel­met) and brother Lasse (blue) take on Birm­ing­ham guest Si­mon Stead in the open­ing heat last night. Danny King.

Law­son filled the void left by Allen’s exit in style by tak­ing the flag in a re-run of heat four which ended in a home 4-2 and an­other 5-1 quickly fol­lowed from the Sund­strom/ Jepsen Jensen com­bi­na­tion be­fore the Bjerre’s got in on the act with a 4-2 in heat six.

But Pan­thers were prob­a­bly left re­gret­ting the lat­ter of those ad­van­tages as it stretched their lead to 10 points and al­lowed Birm­ing­ham to de­ploy a tac­ti­cal rider in the next race.

The vis­i­tors took full ad­van­tage as Ben Barker donned the black and white hel­met to great ef­fect when lead­ing home part­ner King for a blood­less 8-1 over a weak­ened Pan­thers re­serve com­bi­na­tion which re­duced their ar­rears to just three points.

And that’s the way it stayed through a se­ries of shared heats – a run which fea­tured first de­feats of the night for Bjerre (the Ken­neth va­ri­ety), Sund­strom and Jepsen Jensen – be­fore Birm­ing­ham hit the front in heat 11 when guest num­ber one Si­mon Stead and Ger­man charger Martin Smolin­ski breezed to a 5-1 re­turn.

Law­son al­most came down on the open­ing lap of that race as he launched a de­mand­ing run of four suc­ces­sive out­ings and fared lit­tle bet­ter in the next when trail­ing home last in a Brum­mies 4-2 which left Pan­thers star­ing at de­feat.

But Law­son re­turned re­freshed, rein­vig­o­rated and aboard new ma­chin­ery fol­low­ing the in­ter­val to play a star­ring role in the march to vic­tory.

He claimed the no­table scalps of Seb Ulamek and Stead when fol­low­ing home his cap­tain Ken­neth Bjerre for a ter­rific max­i­mum in heat 13. That con­tri­bu­tion helped Pan­thers go a point up but even bet­ter was to come as Law­son zoomed into sec­ond spot be­hind Sund­strom in the penul­ti­mate race to bag an­other max­i­mum that se­cured vic­tory on the night.

And he was en­joy­ing a well-earned rest by the time Bjerre and Sund­strom ap­plied the ic­ing to this par­tic­u­lar Elite League cake in the fi­nale to se­cure max­i­mum points.

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