Crendon FASTRACK Peterborough Go Top of the League
PETERBOROUGH moved top of the Premiership table with a tense 47-43 win over local rivals Ipswich at the East of England Arena.
Bjarne Pedersen and skipper Scott Nicholls were the Crendon Panthers’ heroes in a last-heat decider, with the winning position having been set up by a stunning ride by Ulrich Ostergaard in Heat 14.
The victory was the fourth in succession for Rob Lyon’s buoyant side, who have so far dispelled the pre-season predictions and have established themselves as a serious force in 2021.
But this was always likely to be a tough test with Ipswich, despite being on a recent run of defeats, arriving at Alwalton with plenty of race-winning potential.
So it proved, with Witches riders taking the flag in six of the first seven races – but the Panthers’ sole success in that period was a big one as Nicholls and Michael Palm Toft raced to a Heat 5 5-1 over Paul Starke and guest Adam Ellis to cancel out an early four-point Ipswich advantage.
Pedersen and Hans Andersen had earlier both passed Starke in Heat 1 to prevent a Witches maximum, but there was no escape in Heat 7 when Chris Harris suffered gremlins off the start-line and Ostergaard was held back by Danny King and Jake Allen.
But Ostergaard hit back to win Heat 8 with Andersen salvaging third place from Drew Kemp, and the Nicholls/Palm Toft combination then inflicted the first defeat of the night on Craig Cook as Panthers hit the front for the first time.
Ipswich battled on and levelled with a 4-2 in Heat 11 as Harris split Ellis and Starke – and with the scores level ahead of Heat 13, Panthers’ luck took a turn for the worse as Harris slowed when on a clear 5-1 with Pedersen and it was left to the Dane to protect a shared race.
With the pressure on for Heat 14, Allen gated for the visitors, but Ostergaard produced a tremendous swoop around the outside to hit the front going into the last lap, with Nicholls supplying third place to take Panthers into the decider ahead.
And Pedersen proved the man for that key race with a sharp start from the inside to get the better of King, whilst Nicholls raced hard to pass Allen for third place and ensure Panthers’ third home win on the spin.
Boss Lyon said: “Ipswich pushed us all the way, and I expected it if I’m honest. They’ve had a change of team, I knew it would be tough and I actually predicted that we would win and they would nick a point.
“It would have been a little wider without Bomber’s problems but that’s speedway, that’s how it goes sometimes, and I’m just pleased to get the win.
“I think Bjarne’s professionalism has shone through, he’s got dialled in, his engines are good and he likes what he’s on. It was a no-brainer for him to go off gate one in Heat 15 when we needed three points.
“We would have put Ulrich in that race, but he had a crash at Scunthorpe yesterday and had some damage to his arm, to a point where he didn’t feel confident in doing another race. But Scott was going well, he rectified a problem he’d had in Heat 14 and you saw that with the battling point he got for a 4-2.
“Top of the league is a nice feeling but it doesn’t really mean a great deal as other teams have lots of matches to catch up. But we’re there to be chased now, and we need to keep that momentum going. So far, we have to be really happy with the way it’s going.”
Peterborough’s run of home matches continues as they face Premiership newcomers Sheffield next Monday (Jun 28) – a meeting which brings former Panthers Troy Batchelor and Jack Holder back to the East of England Arena.