Peterborough continued their sparkling start to the 2017 season by breezing into the quarter-finals of the SGB Championship KO Cup.
The ‘T Balfe Construction’ Panthers secured their last-eight spot courtesy of a 95-83 aggregate triumph against Redcar in the preliminary round.
Carl Johnson’s men won both legs of the tie as they followed up a 49-39 success at the East of England Showground last Sunday with a 46-44 verdict in the return clash on Bears’ shale last night.
And their fourth successive victory this season was considerably more emphatic than the final two-point margin might suggest. Peterborough led from start to finish and their passage was secured with three races to spare before Redcar claimed a couple of late 5-1s to restore some pride.
Johnson said: “The aim was to win the meeting rather than worry about the 10-point cushion from the first leg.
“It was important to take control by hitting Redcar hard early on. We didn’t want to give them the opportunity to put us on the back-foot.
“We knew at the interval that the next couple of heats were going to be important. We told the boys not to do anything stupid and just ensure we got ourselves over the line.
“We managed that with three races to spare and we were already through by the time Redcar came back with a couple of heat advantages at the end.
“We’re not going to get carried away, but we’re in the groove and we’ll try to keep the winning run going for as long as possible.”
The victory at Redcar was achieved without two influential riders. New Zealand champion Bradley Wilson-Dean was in action for his SGB Premiership side, Swindon, while Danish ace Kenneth Hansen has returned to his homeland to undergo medical tests on an illness.
Glasgow man Nike Lunna proved to be an inspired choice of guest at reserve. The performance of the Finn was described as ‘fantastic’ by Johnson as he racked up a paid 11-point haul which included a heat two triumph and valuable contributions to 5-1s in the eighth and 12th instalments.
That latter effort, when he followed in Paul Starke, sealed Peterborough’s victory overall. It was the final one of their six heat advantages with half of those arriving in the opening three races as they made an explosive start.
Jack Holder’s success inspired a 4-2 in the opener before Lunna led in Tom Bacon for a 5-1 in a re-run second contest.
Top-scorer Ulrich Ostergaard then took the chequered flag in heat three to register the first of his hat-trick of heat successes in a top-scoring tally of 11 points, but he missed the drama in behind as partner Starke swooped round both Redcar opponents on the final lap to snatch second spot.
Peterborough remained ahead throughout to complete a comprehensive success on aggregate and their reward is a tie against Scunthorpe, who they have already beaten home and away in league action in the early weeks of this season, in the quarter-finals.
But Johnson was quick to insist the Scorpions will be no pushovers as Panthers step up their chase for a trophy.
“We’ve proved that we’re capable of getting results against Scunthorpe,” added Johnson. “But nothing is a given in this sport and I’m sure our two wins in recent weeks will make them all the more determined to beat us in the cup.”
The dates for that tie are still to be arranged.
Peterborough’s more immediate focus is on a pair of Easter derby showdowns against East Anglian rivals Ipswich.
The two teams meet at Foxhall Stadium on Saturday night (7.30pm) ahead of a mouth-watering Easter Monday return at Alwalton (3pm) which is followed by more British Youth Championship action.
REDCAR: Ben Barker 13+1, Jason Garrity 12+1, Charles Wright 7, Jonas B. Andersen 6+1, Richard Hall 3+2, Josh Bailey (guest) 3+1, Fernando Garcia 0
PETERBOROUGH ‘T BALFE CONSTRUCTION’ PANTHERS: Ulrich Ostergaard 11, Paul Starke 10+2, Nike Lunna (guest) 9+2, Jack Holder 8, Simon Lambert 6+1, Tom Bacon 2+1, Rider replacement for Kenneth Hansen.