The rain hasn’t been especially helpful this year but it proved a powerful allay at Monmore last night, as the Panthers came back from a 16 point deficit to give themselves a great chance of winning this Relegation Play Off on aggregate, after losing the 1st leg by a single point.
It certainly didn't start as Panthers intended as the Wolves were dialled in from the off and they set about the Panthers in impressive style with guest Rory Schlein unable to make any impression on the Wolves pairing in heat 1 despite constant pressure for the entire four laps.
It didn't get any better in heat 2 either with Karol Zabik getting passed by Ludvig Lindgren on the back straight to follow home race winner Nicolai Klindt for another Wolves 5-1.
Kenneth Bjerre made the start in 3 to provide the team with a lift but Niels Kristian Iversen bided his time and slipped by him at the end of the second lap, whilst David Howe ensured Henning Bager finished last for another Wolves heat advantage.
Jesper B Monberg made a great start to lead the fourth with Danny King & Claus Vissing seemingly set to take the take the minor placings, especially after Klindt had slid off at the end of the first lap, but King got out of shape on the second bend of the third lap and fell and with the race being awarded Klindt was gifted a point and Panthers deficit was now 12 points.
Iversen won the 5th and Wolves team captain Freddie Lindgren the 6th as Wolves extended their lead to 26-10, but the forecasted rain had started to fall by this time and conditions were starting to get distinctly difficult with reserve Vissing in as a replacement for the tapes excluded King falling twice in heat 6.
Bjerre donned the expected black and white in heat 7 and after getting the better of an opening first lap challenge from Monberg gave the Panthers fans something to cheer by winning heat 7, and with Bager claiming third place the resulting 7-2 advantage cut the deficit to 11.
Schlein was introduced as a tactical substitute in heat 8 but Zabik went down early in the now pouring rain on the first bend and Schlein did well in the rerun to split the Wolves duo and share the heat.
Zabik surprised everyone including Iversen to lead and win the 9th but with King falling whilst third the advantage was gone, nevertheless it was clear now that the Panthers were back in the match as the home side clearly weren't relishing the conditions.
Panthers looked set to take a maximum in the 10th as Bager led with Bjerre second, but conditions which had deteriated badly left Bjerre with no vision and he was forced to pull up after a problem with his goggles.
The rain persisted but Schlein who was initially passed by Ludvig Lindgren retook him and held on to win heat 11 and with Bjerre passing early race leader Iversen in 12, Panthers were on a roll and had reduced the Wolves lead to just 7 points.
Monberg fell at the start of the 13th and Freddie Lindgren took full advantage in the rerun to stop the Panthers charge but the Wolves were powerless to prevent the Panthers from clawing the match back further as first Bager and then Zabik passed the early race leader Howe to register the first Panthers 5-1 of the night in 14.
5 points down with one heat to go was a real result as far as the Panthers were concerned but it got immediately better as Bjerre & Schlein stormed away to win the 15th and the frustration in the Wolves camp was very clear to see as somehow they had let slip a 16 point lead to hold just a 1 point advantage going into the second leg on Thursday.
Kenneth Bjerre and guest Rory Schlein were the main players but special praise should also go to Karol Zabik who finally laid the ghost of small tracks with a superb paid 10 which included a fine win over Iversen in heat 9.
Henning Bager also came well in the second half to add two great heat wins to back them up but it was a disappointing night for Lukas Dryml and Claus Vissing with captain Danny King having a personal nightmare which saw him fail to finish his first three rides after two falls and a tapes exclusion.
Nevertheless the Panthers will feel they have done the hard work, although Trevor Swales was quick to point out that their was still a job to do on Thursday and a lot of the Wolves team had vast knowledge and experience of the Showground, and he was taking nothing for granted at this stage.
Fredrik Lindgren 3-3-1*-3-0 = 10+1
Morten Risager 2*-1-3-2 = 8+1
Niels K Iversen 3-3-2-2-1 = 11
David Howe 1-1-1*-1 = 4+1
Jesper B Monberg 3-2-1*-0 = 6+1
Ludvig Lindgren 2*-0-2-0 = 4+1
Nicolai Klindt 3-1-1-0 = 5
Rory Schlein 1-2-4-3-2-2* = 14+1
Lukas Dryml 0-0-0 = 0
Kenneth Bjerre 2-6-R-3-3 = 14
Henning Bager 0-1-3-3 = 7
Danny King F-T-F-1* = 1+1
Karol Zabik 1-2-0-3-1-2* = 9+1
Claus Vissing 0-2-F = 2