With Yorkshire in the draw we travelled to Cheshire knowing that it was one team from three who would move into the top section of Stage 2 of the competition. And it was Yorkshire that we faced first of all! A team that boasts internationals and Silver tournament winners in their top 3 and s 4th string capable of beating any of the other players on show that day we knew it was always going to be tough. Against such opposition the best you can ask for is ensure that every Yorkshire player knew they had had to earn their victory. We got the bonus of a win in the first game as Kieran beat Yorkshire’s development player, Theo James, 3-0 – 12/10, 11-3, 11/7. Indeed Kieran was the only player to take a game in this first match but, as previously mentioned, all games were hard fought and ‘small margins’ in terms of experience, and more significantly game nouse, saw Yorkshire win the other four matches 3-0 (Oli Lowe v Nick Wall, Joe Thomas v Elliott Ridge, Joe Harrison v Ben Merchant and Oli Hall v Joseph Twigge).
Pride in their performance helped the lads move on and look forward to the remaining fixtures which we hoped were to be more lucrative. Any disappointments were soon wiped out as all the players enjoyed a close, and amusing, game of junior football taking place outside.
It was after lunch that the real work began and Cheshire, the hosts, were next up.
Slight confusion and eagerness from players saw Kieran battle hard, but ultimately lose to his opponent (James Woods) though this eventually was a meaningless rubber as, due to an injury at number 4, the two players should not have played so Kiean was awarded a walkover. James then, after a small recovery, then went on to play Oli Hall in what was possibly the toughest game of the round with Oli eventually losing 3-1 (11/6, 11/7, 6/11, 12/10). Oli Lowe battled hard against experienced Richard Hall and narrowly lost each of the three games (11/7, 11/8, 11/9). Joe Harrison had an equally close encounter against his opponent Gabe Fallows but was able to secure a 3-0 win (13/11, 11/7, 11/9). With the match at 2-2 it was left to 2nd string Joe Thomas to ensure we had something to play for against Lincolnshire. After going 2-0 up (11/6, 11/1) his opponent, George Keeble, started game three in determined mood and, helped a little by extremely aggressive play and a few favourable calls, he levelled the game (4/11, 9/11). All to play for in game five but a more confident and assured final game saw Joe ease past George 11/5.
Lincolnshire and Derbyshire to decide it then! Lincolnshire had had identical scores to us versus Cheshire and Yorkshire so it really was all to play for. Kieran continued his winning ways (2 wins from 2) by overcoming Greg Carter 3-2 (8/11 5/11 12/10 11/6 11/4) and Joe Harrison overcame Harry Redman 3-1 (1/11 11/8 11/7 11/2). This meant that only one game was needed from the remaining three. Another silver tournament winner, Danny Wells, was able to overcome Oli Lowe 3-0 (9/11 3/11 8/11) in a much tighter game than the score line suggested. Similarly in the game between Oli Hall and Sam Booth another 3-0 game (9/11 4/11 6/11) was closer than it appears.
With a match score of 1-1 and a game score of 2-2 it was all down to the final game and hope that Joe Thomas could take us through.. The term small margins became the mantra of the day and another ‘score line not reflecting the game’ saw Ben Smith win 3-0 (0/11 7/11 6/11).
Though slightly disappointed in not going through we can be nothing but proud of the way the team played with sportsmanship, manners and no lack of effort! Better luck next time!!