Rocking Robins brush Panthers aside
SWINDON .................... 56 PANTHERS .................. 37 (Elite League – Swindon 3pts, Panthers 0pts) RED-HOT Linus Sundstrom and skipper Kenneth Bjerre fought a futile battle as Panthers were brushed aside at Swindon.
Sundstrom shone for the second successive night, reeling off a hattrick of heat wins before having to be content with a 12-point haul while Bjerre started and ended the meeting on the receiving end of 5-1s but caught the eye in between.
Guest Ryan Fisher – in for the injured Olly Allen - also made the most of a double-points opportunity just after the mid-point of the contest, but Panthers collapsed in the closing stages.
And they were really found wanting at reserve where Jesper B. Monberg and Richard Lawson contributed just five points between them from 12 rides.
It was a particularly disappointing return from Monberg who spent much of last season in Swindon colours and marked a rapid downturn in form after a handy dozen points at Poole 24 hours earlier.
Their struggles were made all the more telling by a 16-point haul from Swindon’s own bottom-end star Peter Kildemand who single-handedly equalled the combined tally of four Peterborough riders - Fisher, Monberg, Lawson and second-string Rene Bach.
And with so many men failing to deliver the goods, Panthers found the rider replacement facility (in use to cover for the ill Michael Jepsen Jensen again) too big a burden to carry. Jepsen Jensen’s four programmed rides yielded just two points.
If only Panthers had been able to track a full one-to-seven on each of the last two nights, they could easily have added to their Elite League points tally, but the cards dealt to them by the speedway gods have not proved kind.
It also meant an unhappy return to Wiltshire for Panthers co-boss Jan Staechmann who spent the second half of last season in charge of the Robins.
They were already well on the way to the wooden spoon by the time he took the reins but they’re clearly a very different proposition this time around.
Staechmann said: “Swindon showed the importance of having a high-scoring reserve. Our team was also built to have a strong rider in that position so our weakness will always be exposed if people there have off-nights.
“It would be wrong to point the finger at any particular individuals though. We just need to re-group, get Michael and Olly back and move on to Wolverhampton on Monday.”
Panthers got off to the worst possible start as Bjerre and Bach surrendered to a tame 5-1 at the hands of young gun Nick Morris and their own asset Hans Andersen, but they soon responded.
A shared reserves’ race steadied the ship before Sundstrom launched his sizzling showing with victory in a third heat 4-2.
The teams then traded further 4-2s before another Morris and Andersen maximum in heat six saw Panthers fall half-a-dozen points adrift.
A second Sundstrom success briefly stemmed the tide but the visitors’ hopes of eating into their deficit were dashed when Monberg lost out on third place to Simon Stead leaving the final bend of the third lap.
There was more misery for Monberg when on the receiving end of a 51 in the next as the classy Morris this time teamed up with reserve wizard Kildemand to great effect. The city men did provide half-a-dozen heat winners on the night - including in the next three races - but a lack of support for those actually doing the business meant it was only limited resistance to the rampant Robins.
Fisher (when on a tactical ride for double points), the imperious Sundstrom and Bjerre all shone out front but all had partners bringing up the rear.
Sundstrom gradually reeled in Andersen before nailing a pass on the final lap of heat 10 and Bjerre dropped a hint of his quality when powering past Simon Stead and Robin Aspegren to get the verdict in the next contest.
But a streak of four successive Swindon advantages to bring the curtain down left Panthers thoroughly beaten.
Even Sundstrom lost his magic touch in the closing stages but it was the form of those around him that will provide a big concern to Panthers bosses.