Peterborough and Belle Vue have one more epic battle in store live on Eurosport 2 on Thursday (7.30pm) to decide the Premiership title.
The two sides contested one of the most sensational domestic speedway meetings in years on Monday, when the Aces took a narrow 46-44 win from their home leg of the Grand Final.
That meeting saw them build up leads of eight points and then ten later in the meeting, only to be reeled back in by the Panthers, who refused to fade away despite the loss to injury of Hans Andersen and stormed back with two 5-1s in the closing stages.
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The last two days have seen the league leaders working on team plans with long-term injury victim Ulrich Ostergaard definitely ruled out, whilst Michael Palm Toft will continue to ride through the pain barrier of broken fingers.
Intriguingly, the Panthers have plumped for former British Champion Craig Cook as a guest replacement, who is eligible to race in the Final as his Ipswich team didn’t make the play-offs.
Cook is a long-time former Belle Vue rider and also appeared for Peterborough at second division level in 2016 – but a planned Premiership move to the East of England Arena in 2019 dramatically fell through on press day.
Now he’s the man called up by boss Rob Lyon to bolster a side which has gone through the pain barrier during the play-offs so far as they look to take the title for the first time since 2006… when they also turned around a two-point margin in the second leg against Reading, who had current Aces manager Mark Lemon in their team!
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Lyon said: “We know what a good rider Craig can be and I’m confident he can do the job to help us get the result we need to become champions.
“What we’ve seen all season is that this side never knows when they’re beaten. It’s all to play for, it’s a Grand Final, and play-offs tend to be up-and-down events.
“We go into the meeting in a position where we can become champions, that was the main thing from Monday, and now let’s see what Thursday brings.”
Despite seeing their advantage slashed in the closing stages of the first leg in Manchester, and having finished some 16 points behind the Panthers in the regular league table, the Aces will still travel to the decider with confidence high.
That’s because of their recent record at the East of England Arena where they won on all three visits in 2019 and followed up with impressive 50-40 and 52-38 victories in their two regular league appearances this year.
Boss Mark Lemon – hoping to oversee the club’s first league title since way back in 1993 - will once again have to do without Australian star Brady Kurtz, who was injured on the eve of the play-offs.
But the remainder of the side have got the job done so far with rider-replacement in force, and that is the route Lemon has gone down once again for the second leg.
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He said: “We’ve been there twice and won, we ride that place really well, and we have no option but to go there and repeat that.
“We know what the task is in hand, and we’re capable of doing it. The stats say that we’ve got the advantage from our league results, and we’ll take that – we’ll take anything we can.
“I know the boys are disappointed with a two-point lead, but to win a match and be disappointed is not a bad thing. We’ve just got to keep focused, and there’s a job to be done.”
With another close contest expected, there is even the possibility of ‘Golden Heats’ at this level for the first time.
Speedway’s equivalent of a penalty shoot-out occurs if the aggregate scores are level after Heat 15 on Thursday – and would involve the managers selecting riders for three further races, with the title being won by the first team to register a heat advantage from those races.
It’s sure to be a tension-packed, dramatic evening, and you can follow all the action with Abi Stephens and the team live from the East of England Arena on Eurosport 2 from 7.30pm
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