The ‘T Balfe Construction’ Panthers were beaten 57-33 by a high-class Coventry side at the East of England Showground.
It was a rare situation in which the visitors arguably possessed more knowledge of the Alwalton track than their hosts . . . and they certainly put it to good use as past Peterborough aces, British champion Danny King and Danish star Kenneth Bjerre, were both unbeaten by an opponent.
Peterborough’s only heat advantage arrived early on as skipper Ulrich Ostergaard took the chequered flag in a third-heat 4-2.
The club’s other three heat wins were provided by new recruits with Bradley Wilson-Dean blazing home in heat two, Kenneth Hansen speeding to victory in heat seven and Paul Starke tasting success in heat 12.
But Johnson believes the stern challenge provided by a Coventry side, who had been tipped to challenge for SGB Premiership honours until their sad demise, will stand his men in good stead for their SGB Championship campaign ahead.
“We didn’t expect to win the meeting, but we would ideally have liked to kept the scoreline slightly closer,” said Johnson.
“That was never the top priority, though. It was all about getting the boys’ time on the bike and experience of riding the Showground.
“I was pleased to see three of the new signings pick up a race win because that was far from easy against a Coventry team I firmly believe would have been right up there in the SGB Premiership this season.
“We may look to make a couple of tweaks to the team line-up ahead of Friday, and we’ll certainly do a bit of work on the track.
“The riders were full of praise about how smooth it now is following the revamp during the winter, but we have a team of racers and need to make sure they have the right surface to race on.”
Peterborough kept things tight early on before back-to-back 5-1s in heats four and five eased Coventry into control.
The hosts deployed new number one Jack Holder on a tactical ride in heat 10, but he ended up bringing up the rear in the most thrilling contest of the afternoon.
His partner, Simon Lambert, led the way for much of the contest until being passed by Lasse Bjerre, and Jason Garrity then nipped through for second spot after blasting out of the final bend.
That super scrap was rivalled for entertainment by a quite brilliant heat 13 when Hansen looked capable of ending the unbeaten records of both King and Kenneth Bjerre.
But the British champion zoomed round the outside on the third lap to hit the front before Bjerre swept from last to second through the final couple of turns.
That was one of many moments to savour for a large contingent of Coventry fans, who descended on the East of England Showground to help create a bumper season-opening crowd.
And the turnout from both sets of supporters earned praise from Johnson. He added: “It was great to see so many Coventry fans make the trip over – and also brilliant to see so many people behind us too.”
Peterborough are back on their own shale on Friday (March 24) when they kick-off their league challenge against Scunthorpe (7.30pm).
PETERBOROUGH: Paul Starke 8+1, Kenneth Hansen 7, Ulrich Ostergaard 6, Jack Holder 5+1, Simon Lambert 4+1, Bradley Wilson-Dean 3, Tom Bacon 0.
COVENTRY: Josh Bates 12+1, Danny King 11+1, Kenneth Bjerre 11+1, Lewis Kerr 9, Lasse Bjerre 8+2, Jason Garrity 4+1, James Sarjeant 2+2.
1 – re-run King (62.6), Holder, Kerr, Lambert. 2-4, 2-4.
2 – Wilson-Dean (63.9), Bates, Sarjeant, Bacon. 3-3, 5-7.
3 – Ostergaard (62.4), L. Bjerre, Starke, Garrity. 4-2, 9-9.
4 – K. Bjerre (62.4), Bates, Hansen, Bacon. 1-5, 10-14.
5 – Kerr (63.7), King, Starke, Ostergaard. 1-5, 11-19.
6 – K. Bjerre (62.7), Holder, Lambert, Sarjeant. 3-3, 14-22.
7 – Hansen (63.7), Garrity, L. Bjerre, Wilson-Dean. 3-3, 17-25.
8 – Bates (64.8), Lambert, Kerr, Bacon. 2-4, 19-29.
9 – re-run K. Bjerre (64.0), Ostergaard, Starke, Sarjeant. 3-3, 22-32.
10 – L. Bjerre (64.7), Garrity, Lambert, Holder (t/r). 1-5, 23-37.
11 – King (63.5), Hansen, Kerr, Wilson-Dean. 2-4, 25-41.
12 – Starke (64.8), Bates, Sarjeant, Bacon. 3-3, 28-44.
13 – King (64.8), K. Bjerre, Hansen, Holder. 1-5, 29-49.
14 – Bates (65.7), L. Bjerre, Ostergaard, Wilson-Dean. 1-5, 30-54.
15 – Kerr (65.4), Starke, Holder, K. Bjerre (exc, 2mins). 3-3, 33-57.