Walter Reeves Handicap Cup Final - 11 April 2018
The match between Long Eaton 2 and Littleover 3 was played at Shardlow Village Hall. Long Eaton, runners up in the Premier Division, were giving Littleover, mid-table finish in Division 1, a healthy head start of 169 points. This translated into a required victory margin of 17 points per individual match (on average).
The opening match between Long Eaton's Stuart McIntyre (HCP -9) and Littleover's Rob Hemingray (HCP 54) was a close battle with Stuart taking it 33-14, 2 points short of the expected margin. Long Eaton's Jane Vickers (HCP 9) followed up with a 33-23 win over Littleover's Mick Coulthread (HCP 54) in a cagey dual which saw Littleover gain another 5 points against the handicap. In the third match, Long Eaton's Tony Smith (HCP 9) had an epic dual with Littleover's Thomas Bowes (HCP 54). Long-range defence against crushing forehand drives, Tony ground out a 29-22 win, but Littleover picked up another 8 points against the handicap to put them 15 points ahead of expectation.
Jane started the fightback, controlling the game well to win 33-12 against Rob, a margin of 6 points better than the handicap. She continued the revival in the doubles, pairing with Stuart to overcome Thomas and Mick by 33-12, 5 points better than the handicap. In a hard-hitting encounter (which actually broke a ball) Stuart beat Thomas 33-13, relinquishing just one point to the handicap. The start of the next match between Tony and Mick had all the hallmarks of expedite, but those concerns quickly faded as Tony ran out a 33-9 winner (9 points over expectation) to put Long Eaton ahead of the curve (by 4 points) for the first time on the night.
The next match decided the destination of the trophy. Thomas, in a man-of-the-match winning performance, played well above his handicap to beat Jane 9-11, 11-4, 11-6, with a crescendo of crisp attacking shots in a virtually error-free display. The 25 points he picked up over handicap left Long Eaton with a mountain to climb, needing to win both the remaining matches 33-4 to avoid defeat. Tony could only beat Rob 33-19 (+1 to Rob on the handicap) confirming the victory for Littleover. Stuart, giving 100% throughout, finished the evening off with a 33-9 win over a (now) very relaxed Mick (+3 to Stuart on the handicap) to leave the final scores at 341-322 in favour of the 2017-2018 Champions, Littleover 3.
Congratulations to Thomas, Rob and Mick, and commiserations to Stuart, Jane and Tony. It was a very enjoyable, well-balanced final decided by some exceptional play. Next year's competition will be eagerly awaited.
Thanks also to Shardlow Village Hall for the use of their facilities and to Mike Starkie for setting up and assisting with umpiring.