Good results but another revamp is still on the cards
Panthers promoter Ged Rathbone faces a stick or twist dilemma in the club’s pursuit of Premier League honours. Thecityteamclimbedbackinto third place in the standings after collecting four points in as many days on the road last week.
They ended fellow top-six hopefuls Sheffield’s unbeaten home league record with a 48-45success at Owlertonlast Thursday and then collected another point when going down 47-43 in a long-distance trip to Workington last Sunday.
Rathbone is still considering possible ways of strengtheningateamnotfullyfiringon all cylinders, but he doesn’t have long to make a decision with a signing deadline of August 15 looming large.
Rathbone admitted: “Not many people would have expected us to pick up four points from two very tough away meetings.
“They were two pleasing results and it was great to see the lads dig in andbattleinthe way they did.
“Butit is clear to see westill have a couple of problems in the team and the question now is whether we try to persevere with riders who have beenstrugglingoflate, orgamble on making team changes.
“We’reinagoodpositionin the table, but weknowwestill have work to do to nail down that spot in the top six.
“We also have to consider whether or not we are strong enough currently to make a challenge for the title
“Whatever we settle on, it has to bethe correct decision. There is noturning back after the signing deadline.”
Rathbone refused to identify any current riders potentially underthreat if Panthers do opt to revamp their team again.
The club will have to make a decision on the future of reserve racer Ashley Morris, whose short-term stint is due to expire early next week.
Morris has impressed by scoring 30points in five meetings since being drafted in for Simon Lambert, who is now out for the rest of the season.
Tom Perry has found the going tough since rising into the main body of the team following a lay-off of more than a month with a collarbone injury.
But Perry is still classed as the club’s mandatory British rider afterstarting the season in the number seven berth.
Czech prospect Zdenek Holubhasn’tmadetheimpact expected of him at reserve while Danish pair Nikolaj BuskJakobsenandEmilGrondal have struggled at times.
However, bothofthoseriders have suggested their form is improving with performances of late.
Busk Jakobsen delivered twodouble-figure scores during July while Grondal delivered impressive heat 14 wins in the club’s two most recent meetings. Panthers producedarousing late show to swoop for a welcome win.
Owlerton Stadium, the home of Sheffield, has been one of the club’s happier hunting grounds since returning to the Premier League.
And that proved to be the case again last Thursday night when a streak of five successive 4-2s clinched a comeback triumph against a weakened set of hosts.
Panthers had earlier conceded back-to-back 5-1s during a miserable start before staring at a 10-point deficit after just six races following a hat-trick of 4-2s from the hosts.
But a successful tactical ride from Ulrich Ostergaard in heat seven laid the foundations for a pleasing recovery against a Tigers team who had lost number one Simon Stead after just one ride.
Steadtooknofurtherpart after hitting the deck on the opening bend of heat three and that left Sheffield without their top tworiders as Ja- son Garrity was already out injured.
Panthers continued to eat into their arrears before hitting the front for the first time when Emil Grondal inspired a 4-2 in the penultimate race.
And number one Craig Cook, whowonthreeofthefinal five instalments, did likewise in a last-heat decider to sew up a valuable victory.
Assistant team boss Carl Johnson said: “All seven men scored important points to help us pick up an important win.
“We battled hard to stay i n contention and Sheffield’s loss of Stead obviously worked in our favour.
“It’s never nice to see ariderhavetopulloutinjured, but we had to ensure we took advantage.”
Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen dellivered two double-figure scores in July.