King’s Lynn 47, Peterborough 43
King's Lynn number one rider Kenneth Bjerre saved the best until last as the Stars won the first of their two vital Elite League derbies tonight against Peterborough at the Norfolk Arena.
Lynn can travel to the East of England Showground on Thursday in good spirits after Panthers' asset Bjerre's final-heat heroics meant the Stars went third in the table. Rob Lyon's men now lie on 43 points jointly with fellow play-off contenders Eastbourne and Lakeside.
With a top four play-off place at stake for both sides, a large crowd witnessed the scores lying at 44-40 going into the last race. At the start of the crucial showdown Peterborough's former Lynn riders Nicki Pedersen and Troy Batchelor held a 5-1 position which would have given the visitors a draw.
However, Bjerre firstly overtook Batchelor, then Pedersen, at the beginning of the final lap to send the home fans away delighted. Peterborough will be eager for revenge on home shale. With six successive 3-3 shared races going into the heat 9 interval, it was becoming clear the result was destined to be close.
The Stars led by just 28-26 at that stage as neither side was giving an inch. Kenneth Bjerre beat treble world champion Pedersen in the opening heat which was shared. In second place was surprisingly not Pedersen but European U19 Championship runner-up Michael Jepsen Jensen, who has come into the Panthers side for Norbert Kosciuch.
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Home skipper Olly Allen, returning from a shoulder injury, showed no ill effects as he and Mads Korneliussen collected the first maximum 5-1 win of the night in heat 3. Pedersen – still the track record holder at the Norfolk Arena after setting 57.60 seconds almost nine years ago to the day – bounced back to record his first victory in heat 5. Batchelor managed what few have done at the Saddlebow track in 2011, passing Kenneth Bjerre to win the next contest.
Between heats four and nine Niels-Kristian Iversen was the only home rider to taste victory, managing it in the seventh outing. However, Lynn's knack of raising the bar after the interval repeated itself as the brothers Bjerre maxed out to post a lead of six points, the biggest of the evening.
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Pedersen inspired a perfect reply by leading home Jensen in a 5-1, but the meeting delivered further twists with falls in the next three races. Heat 12 was awarded a 5-1 to Lynn when Krzystof Buckowski went into the fence on the fourth bend while chasing Allen and Kozza Smith, who was making his 2011 Stars home Elite League debut. Iversen then fell in an away heat advantage, but heat 14 was also awarded in the interests of safety as a 3-3 when Panthers reserve Kacper Gomolski fell to set up a grandstand finish.
• Stars: Kenneth Bjerre 13, Lasse Bjerre 5+2, Olly Allen 8+2, Mads Korneliussen 8+1, Niels-Kristian Iversen 6, Fillip Sitera 0, Kozza Smith 7+4.
• Panthers: Nicki Pedersen 12+1, Michael Jepsen Jensen 7+1, Krzystof Buckowski 1+1, Linus Sundstrom 7, Troy Batchelor 11+1, Richard Lawson 1, Kacper Gomolski 4.