Panthers play-off bids shattered at Coventry

PETERBOROUGH’S brave bid to reach the Elite League play-offs is over after a 52-40 defeat at Coventry on Wednesday.

PETERBOROUGH’S brave bid to reach the Elite League play-offs is over after a 52-40 defeat at Coventry on Wednesday.

The depleted Readypower Panthers got off to a nightmare start at Brandon, going 18-6 down after four races, and although they restored a glimmer of hope during the meeting they couldn’t quite get on terms.

Panthers needed a draw to gatecrash the top four, but as things turned out they finish in a frustrating sixth place, just two points off the play-offs, having dropped below Eastbourne as a result of the 12-point defeat.

Coventry got off to a flyer with two 5-1s and two 4-2s in the opening four races, with Heat 2 proving particularly disappointing as Panthers gated on a 4-2 only for Josef Franc to hit the front and Michal Szczepaniak to pass both Tomas H Jonasson and Jason Bunyan on the third turn.

Jonasson was overhauled by Scott Nicholls in Heat 4 to complete a nightmare start to proceedings, but a surprising 5-1 from Norbert Kosciuch and guest Mads Korneliussen in the next race gave the visitors some hope.

Panthers’ gating was much improved with Nicholls and Chris Harris having to come from the back to win their next rides, and when Kosciuch went for double in Heat 8 the visitors looked set for big rewards as they held a big 8-1 position on the first bend – but Aaron Summers had other ideas and promptly passed both Jonasson and the Pole by the start of the second lap.

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Panthers kept on chipping away with a fine win for Krzysztof Buczkowski in Heat 9, and although he couldn’t hold Harris at bay in the next an engine failure for Summers prevented major damage.

Ten points down, Rory Schein and Jonasson held a 5-1 in Heat 12 until they were split by Edward Kennett – and then Panthers gained a decent break in Heat 13 with another 4-2 when Harris ground to a halt and Korneliussen took a good win over Nicholls.

That left the score at 43-37 with two races to go and Panthers needed a 4-2 and a 5-1 from the final heats, but their chances ended when Kenni Larsen made it around Schlein on turns one and two, with Franc defeating Jonasson to seal Panthers’ fate – and for good measure, the home side added their own 5-1 in Heat 15

Co-boss Jan Staechmann said: “We’ve seen it a few times recently with poor starts to meetings. The last three have been really bad for us and I don’t really know what it is, but obviously it’s something we have to address.

“We had a few riders off-colour, and that’s not making an excuses, that’s an observation of what went wrong. There’s not a lot I can say, we got beaten by a better team but we shouldn’t have been in this position in the first place. It wasn’t lost tonight, we lost it during the season and we left ourselves with too much to do.

“Now that we’re not making the play-offs our focus shifts to the Knockout Cup, and we’re going to have to try and do all we can to progress in that competition.”

COVENTRY 52: Scott Nicholls 13+1, Kenni Larsen 11, Chris Harris 9, Edward Kennett 6+2, Aaron Summers 5, Josef Franc 5, Michal Szczepaniak 3+1.

PETERBOROUGH 40: Rory Schlein 9+1, Krzysztof Buczkowski 9, Norbert Kosciuch 8+1, Mads Korneliussen 8, Tomas H Jonasson 5+2, Jason Bunyan 1, Michael Jepsen Jensen r/r.