Team boss embarrassed by shambolic performance
NEWCASTLE 59 PANTHERS 34
Official club websites tend to be the orange squash of the sports media.
They are usually the places where watered down content can be found with bad performances more often than not being put down to bad luck, or another such excuse.
So the presence of the word ‘embarrassing’ in a headline on the official Panthers site last Sunday night was both a refreshing surprise and a sign of a seriously below-par display.
And team boss Carl Johnson’s mood as he pulled out of Brough Park for the long trip back down the A1 was a further indication of that. His post-meeting rant also included the word ‘shambolic’ and questions regarding the effort and commitment of certain riders.
He had witnessed his side claim just one heat advantage during a dismal showing which left their place in the play-off zone in jeopardy - and even that arrived when number one Craig Cook was deployed on a tactical ride.
That heat 11 victory, worth double-points, was one of three provided by Cook as the World Cup silver medalist did everything expected of him, racking up 14 points despite suffering a retirement in the final race.
Middle-order man Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen and reserve Ashley Morris did also take one race win apiece on their way to seven-point hauls, but the remaining four Panthers riders could manage only six points between them.
Skipper Ulrich Ostergaard endured a personal nightmare with a crash followed by a tapes exclusion and a major mechanical fault in his opening three races - the latter incident occurring on the final lap of heat nine when he looked set to triumph. Ostergaard was probably relieved to get through his final ride in heat 13 without incident, even if it did result in a last place and finishing the night on 2+1.
Zdenek Holub was another man to experience a hiccup when in front. He lost his steel shoe when leading a re-run of heat four and had to settle for second place. The Czech racer began brightly to collect 3+1 before fading in his final two rides.
But Panthers’ major weakness was in the main body of the team where Tom Perry could only manage a solitary point and Emil Gr o nd al failed to score in his first visit to the North-East venue.
And, with Panthers having fallen to fifth place in the standings with just five meetings of the regular season remaining, they can ill afford to fluff their lines again.