PANTHERS CROWNED PREMIERSHIP CHAMPIONS

Thursday October 14, 2021
PETERBOROUGH were crowned 2021 Premiership Champions on one of the all-time great nights at the East of England Arena.

The Crendon Panthers won the second leg of the Grand Final 51-39 against Belle Vue, overturning Monday’s two-point defeat in Manchester with a ten-point aggregate margin.

It was Panthers’ first league title since 2006 and it was achieved with a side written off by many prior to racing due to the average age of the riders.

But experience won the day as Panthers topped the league table losing just four out of 20 matches, and then performed superbly throughout the play-offs to knock out Wolverhampton and then the Aces.

An all-round team effort was led by super skipper Scott Nicholls, who produced a title-winning ride in Heat 14, whilst at reserve Bjarne Pedersen signed off his competitive racing career with another crucial bumper haul.

Michael Palm Toft again went through the pain barrier with broken fingers to pull off some spectacular overtaking moves, Chris Harris was all-out effort as usual, whilst guest Craig Cook – in for Hans Andersen – worked hard for paid-seven and contributed a vital early victory off the outside gate.

And the youngest member by far of ‘Dad’s Army’, 17-year-old Jordan Palin, added to his paid-eight from the first leg by taking a memorable Heat 7 victory over Aces captain Steve Worrall and Charles Wright.

Panthers were supported in the pits by Andersen, who was ruled out of riding by the authorities after his horror crash at Belle Vue on Monday, whilst two other members of the set-up were present in spirit – the injured Ulrich Ostergaard, back home in Denmark, and legendary co-promoter Colin Pratt who sadly passed away earlier this month.

Just as in Manchester, there was thrilling action on-track in front of a huge crowd, and the Aces could have started with a 5-1 maximum only for Palm Toft and Cook to relegate Dan Bewley to the back as he tried to seal a result with team-mate Richie Worrall.

Panthers levelled on aggregate in Heat 3 with a win for Cook whilst Nicholls’ inside challenge on Wright for third place resulted in the former Panthers man lifting on turn two and doing well to avoid the fence.

But Bewley, who was outstanding, then combined with reserve Jye Etheridge for a shock Belle Vue 5-1 in Heat 4 to give the visitors a four-point aggregate lead.

Panthers were back in play in Heat 6 with Harris surging from fourth to second to join Palm Toft for a 5-1 after the Aces elected to deploy both reserves in the same race.

And they went ahead on aggregate with Palin’s heroics in Heat 7 whilst Harris was prevented from completing a 5-1 by a smart move by Wright to split the pairing.

But Panthers did strike big in Heat 8 when Pedersen and Palm Toft both passed reserve Tom Brennan on successive laps – although the Aces’ Rising Star then did a brilliant job to hold Nicholls at bay in Heat 9 whilst Steve Worrall passed Cook for third.

Heat 10, though, gave Panthers a huge step towards the title in a truly sensational race as Worrall led for the visitors only for Palm Toft to move to the front going into the last lap before Nicholls rolled back the years with an outside swoop to go past his rival captain on the final bend for a 5-1.

Panthers were eight up on aggregate and the next two races were shared with both Pedersen and Harris fighting their way past Brennan in Heat 11, whilst Pedersen took control of Heat 12 which was important as Cook hit mechanical trouble.

And they looked set to secure the title in an outstanding Heat 13 as Harris and Palm Toft went either side of Wright to set up a 5-1 position, only for Bewley to pull off a stunning last lap move to pass both Panthers on the outside – which was rightly applauded by the whole of the packed house at the East of England Arena.

The Aces needed two 5-1s to force an aggregate tie and Golden Heats, and they looked in position to get the first of them in Heat 14 – but Nicholls overhauled Wright mid-race and the Belle Vue man came to a halt, which effectively sealed matters for Panthers. Nicholls wasn’t to know that, however, and chased and passed Brennan for the win, and the celebrations then got into full swing.

Bewley won the final race with Harris and Pedersen getting the better of Steve Worrall for a 3-3 to compete an epic Grand Final and unbelievable season for the Panthers.

And it was also a triumph for boss Rob Lyon, who had been tempted back into club management prior to the cancelled 2020 campaign, and now has a Premiership title on his CV in his first season with the club.

Lyon said: “It feels fantastic. It’s been a juggle ever since Ulrich was injured and we’ve been covering him in all of our matches, but we got there, we got over the line and we deserve it – the boys have been absolutely fantastic all year.

“We knew all about Belle Vue’s record here, but whichever way you looked it, whichever decision you made, it was always going to be a difficult tie with four good teams in the play-offs.

“But we had to believe in our own ability and take advantage of what we felt was the right thing to do.

“We knew there was a good chance Belle Vue would get into the Final, but we felt we could compete there, and that third time lucky we could turn them over here.

“We saw again tonight how we rallied in mid-meeting, we started to edge away, and we had enough in the tank to see us over the line.

“It’s a very sweet moment, and I can’t thank the promotion and the track staff here at Peterborough enough. They’ve been absolutely first-class, the riders have been fantastic to work with and we’ve had great support – it’s been a joy to be part of.”

PREMIERSHIP GRAND FINAL, 2nd leg
PETERBOROUGH 51: Bjarne Pedersen 13+1, Michael Palm Toft 12+1, Scott Nicholls 10+1, Chris Harris 7+3, Craig Cook 5+2, Jordan Palin 4, Ulrich Ostergaard r/r.
BELLE VUE 39: Dan Bewley 15, Tom Brennan 11, Steve Worrall 5+1, Jye Etheridge 3+2, Richie Worrall 3, Charles Wright 2, Brady Kurtz r/r.
Peterborough win 95-85 on aggregate and are crowned 2021 Premiership Champions.

PETERBOROUGH SPEEDWAY are delighted to be supported by Crendon Timber Engineering as main team sponsors and City Auction Group as club sponsors.

Picture: IAN CHARLES


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