Semi final night, nerves tingling.
The first issue was navigating the building works at The Hut of Dreams, is there enough space to play? Captain Baron and his First Lieutenant Paul Melling turn up early to set things up (Paul, AKA Cappy in Southport league, but plain old Paul in Wigan league).
7.25, where’s Rob Midgley? Phone calls, no answer. LSG Crusaders have arrived and they smell an easy victory. Contact made. “where are you?“ ... “Why have we got a game?” ... “Yes, you pillock it’s semi finals night”. The Crusaders mascot (a teddy bear with an LSG T-Shirt on) offers to play for us ... but can’t as he’s not registered. Spin are in a Spin!
7.30, the match has to start. Cappo Baron selects the order of play. Rob to go on third ... if he gets there in time. Paul Melling v Richard Reading. Now Richard is an amazing, older guy who depends on a crutch to play. A chance for Paul to knock off some of the 97 point handicap. Well ... Paul played the first with the mind set of blowing Crusaders out of the park. What a pillock! First set to Crusaders. The left hander with a dodgy bat and a crutch was causing problems.
Paul’s head is twisted (and recalls the blow-up crutch presented to Clint at last year’s Christmas do). Spin are in disarray. He settles down to some average winning sets and then takes the last set 11-2. Spin have just about got their points quota for match.
Next up Cappo Baron v John Dawson. Another left hander with a dodgy bat. Another right old struggle but he achieves his winning quota. Where’s Rob? And just as the ‘B’ in Rob is pronounced the inner double doors rattle ... the outside doors are opened. He’s here in the nick of time.
Rob v Keneau. A young lad with oodles of talent and now with application riding top of 3rd division stats. Rob achieves his quota so game well and truly on. Spin walking on eggshells trying to win with interest against two dodgy bats and an up and coming potential super star. And so we get to the final 3 games with Spin behind the run-rate ... 39 points adrift.
Cappo Baron v Rising Star Keneau. “How do l play him?” ... sound tactical advice is dispensed ... chop him to death and don’t under any circumstances make any attacking shots. First point and Cappo Baron tries his signature full-blooded, top-spin,side-spin, forehand-loop ... straight into the net. Pillock! He sees the evil eye from his teammates. He knuckles down and despite the urge to play an open game he plays a magnificent controlled game and gains an extra 6 points.
A 33 point deficit with just two to play ... well behind the run-rate ... Rob v Richard (the left-handed dodgy-batter with the crutch that beat Paul in the opening set). Awesome play by Rob ... a net 28 gain ... a game-changer ... leaving Spin just 5 points behind ... Melling v John Dawson to finalise the match.
Rent a crowd turned up. The Southport League lads arrived smiling from their 7-3 victory. How you doing? Shhhh ... last match, it’s really tight. Paul ‘Southport Cappy’ Melling was sweating out of every pore ... the crowd and the Crusaders Teddy had fallen silent as Paul went 2-0 down. He swallowed hard and wins the first set by 4 ... the second game another 6 points won ... Spin are in the lead for first time. The crowd are enthralled (actually they just want the match over and go for a pint). A 13 point victory for Spin.
Crusaders congratulations followed ... great sportsmanship. Teddy took his T shirt off and threw it to the crowd. The crowd went wild and chased the players for autographs ... then the crowd joined the players for a celebratory drink. Rob still saying ... “nobody told me we were playing tonight”.
No matter ... we’re off to the final!
Match Report by Paul Melling