Panthers pounce to shock Monarchs at home

Craig Cook leads Kevin Wolbert, Ricky Wells and Robert Lambert in the decisive final heat. Picture: Ron MacNeill
Craig Cook leads Kevin Wolbert, Ricky Wells and Robert Lambert in the decisive final heat. Picture: Ron MacNeill
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A patched up Peterborough Panthers became only the second speedway team to defeat Edinburgh Monarchs at Armadale this season as they pulled off a hard-fought but deserved 45-44 Premier League victory last night.

Ace in the pack for the Panthers was guest Ricky Wells who pulled off a quartet of race wins for the English outfit.

He said: “I felt good out there; the track is always well prepared which makes a difference. It was a great performance by the whole team.”

Although the Panthers arrived in a depleted state it certainly did not blunt the challenge they threw out to Monarchs in a closely-contested first half.

Monarchs opened up with a 4-2 in the fist race when Justin Sedgmen headed home young British sensation Robert Lambert who was making his first visit to the Lothian Arena.

But the Panthers’ reserve paring of former Monarch Matthew Wethers, and Rafal Konopka, streaked home against Monarchs’ tailenders Rob Branford and Max Clegg who looked to be slightly off the pace.

However, Monarchs, who already knew they were in something of a dogfight, hit back in the next race when German duo Kevin Wolbert and Erik Riss picked up a 5-1 against Lewis Blackbird and Michael Palm-Toft to regain the lead 10-8.

In what was turning out to be a seesaw contest, Panthers once again pulled themselves clear with their second 5-1 of the match in heat five. But a 5-0 verdict to Monarchs in the next race after Panthers’ pairing of Wethers and Konopka both fell, saw the Capital team steal a three-point lead.

However, the Panthers breathed down Monarchs’ necks at every opportunity and when Ricky Wells and Wethers secured a 4-2 in heat eight Monarchs’ lead was cut to just a single point.

Wolbert won the ninth race which was shared as the home side struggled to shake Panthers off in what was proving to be Monarchs’ stiffest test for some weeks, and with Wells in sparkling form for the visitors Monarchs were kept very much on their toes.

It is a moot point whether the Panthers were actually stronger through their use of guest riders but Monarchs will need to be at their sharpest in the return fixture at Peterborough tomorrow afternoon.

Monarch’s took a 4-2 courtesy of Craig Cook who smashed the track record in heat 10 – his first ride – taking the flag in a time 54.0 seconds to inch his team in front once more by three points, 31-28. Cook was asked if he could lower his new time even further and replied: “I haven’t really thought about it to be honest. You sometimes think you have done a fast four laps but you can never be absolutely sure until you hear it announced.”

Monarchs then suffered a shock 5-1 reverse in heat 11 as Wells, who looked supersonic at times, and Lambert, easily outpaced Clegg and Riss to inch the Panthers back in front 32-33 with the match balanced on a knife edge.

However, Wolbert won a crucial 12th heat for Monarchs and a third-place point for Branford gave Monarchs a vital 4-2 and they now were in front 36-35 with just three races remaining in what was easily the best meeting at the Lothian Arena in ages.

And that remained the advantage for Monarchs after Lambert defeated Cook on heat 13, critically Sedgmen sticking in a third-place point.

But still the Panthers were not finished and when Palm-Toft defeated Branford in heat 14, and with Wethers claiming third, once again the visitors grabbed the lead 42-41 to set up a last-heat decider.

But despite skipper Cook wining the heat 15 finale, team-mate Wolbert trailed in last ensuring a 3-3 share of the spoils which clinched victory for the jubilant Panthers by the slenderest of margins 45.44.

Monarchs: Cook 15, Sedgmen 9, Wolbert 11, Riss 4, Clegg 2, Branford 3.

Panthers: 15, Lambert 9, Blackbird 6, Palm-Toft 7, Konopka 3, Wethers 5.