COVENTRY supporters proved beyond all doubt they have a club worth saving as their intended team won Sundayâ€™s Challenge match at Peterborough.
Bees fans descended on the Showground in huge numbers for what was an emotional occasion as the only time this year that they will compete as a full one-to-seven.
In many ways the result of the meeting â€“ a victory by a comfortable 24-point margin â€“ was immaterial, although it did serve to heighten thoughts of just what might have been this season.
Peterborough promoter Ged Rathbone had tipped Coventry as likely SGB Premiership champions, and the meeting certainly proved that a clear gulf remains between the sportâ€™s top two leagues â€“ although in fairness this Bees side could have been built to race at the Showground.
Track specialists Danny King and Kenneth Bjerre were both unbeaten from four outings as they dominated the race wins, whilst it surely wonâ€™t be long before British Under-21 Champion Josh Bates is picked up by a Premiership club on the evidence of his paid-13 display.
A delay of over half an hour was necessary to get all supporters into the stadium, and the Panthers held the visitors over the first three races with Bradley Wilson-Dean and Ulrich Ostergaard taking the flag for the home side.
But Bates flew from the start in Heat 4 to team up with Bjerre for a 5-1 over Kenneth Hansen, and King showed his expertise with a clever turn two ride in the next, passing both Ostergaard and Paul Starke for maximum points alongside Lewis Kerr.
Hansenâ€™s victory over Jason Garrity in Heat 7 pegged the Coventry advantage at eight points, but Bates found the key to the track to move inside Simon Lambert in Heat 8 to put the visitors ten points up.
The Panthers elected to deploy Jack Holder for double points in Heat 10 but the move backfired in spectacular fashion with the kind of epic race the circuit is so famous for.
Holder initially worked his way into second place, behind team-mate Lambert, but was caught on the third lap going too wide as Garrity and Lasse Bjerre both charged through. Bjerre then kept the momentum going to move past Lambert for the lead, and the turnaround was completed by Garrityâ€™s last-bend move to also go past the home rider.
That was Garrityâ€™s final involvement due to a blown engine, but there was more drama in Heat 13 with King and Hansen initially neck-and-neck up front whilst Kenneth Bjerre was mired at the back.
King shook off Hansen to regain the advantage whilst Bjerre summoned up remarkable speed on turns three and four of the final lap to launch past both Holder and Hansen and go from fourth to second.
Heat 14 produced further entertainment courtesy of Bates and Lasse Bjerre as both got the better of Wilson-Dean, Bjerre then hitting the fence but still recovering to go from fourth to second back past his opponents.
And although King sat out Heat 15 and Kenneth Bjerre was timed out, Kerr still got the better of Holder and Starke as the sole Coventry representative, to provide their eleventh race win of the meeting.
The post-match parade then saw the Coventry riders join the supporters on the back straight for a group photo â€“ it was â€˜the team that never wasâ€™ as far as league competition is concerned, but also a reminder that the spirit of the club should never be allowed to fade.
An outrageously complex political wrangle is preventing them from racing in Coventry this season â€“ and now it is up to everyone involved to get them back at the earliest possible opportunity.
Our thanks go to the Peterborough promotion for putting on the fixture and their hospitality towards the riders and supporter on the day, and we wish them all the very best for the 2017 season.
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.