In a season of Cup surprises, Third Division Nomads Leopards led the way in this week’s Round Two matches of the Clacton & District League’s Handicap Cup to become unlikely semi-finalists with a convincing 5-1 win over Division Two opponents Brotherhood C.

And with Brotherhood E also getting past Second Division opposition in Windsor Buzzards, it means that, for the first time that most people can remember, two teams from the League’s lowest Division have qualified for the semi-finals.

The Leopards’ regular trio of Bob Jillins, Dominic Joannou and Stuart Wilkinson pulled off a shock, and surprisingly straightforward, 5-1 victory over Brotherhood C.

Jillins was involved in the two closest matches of the evening, (on +2) beating Mark Boyland (-11) 3-2 (11-4, 13-11, 8-11, 12-14, 11-9) and then settling the tie (on +1) in match six by beating Paul Metcalf (-3) 3-2 (11-0, 7-11, 13-11, 6-11, 11-6).

The other Division Three side, Brotherhood E, had a tougher time against Windsor Buzzards, getting through by the narrowest of 5-4 margins.

Dan Grindrod, Andrey Pavlov and Lucy Carvell raced into a 3-0 lead, only to see the Buzzards level the scores, thanks to a Dave Martin’s (-13) win, 3-2 (11-8, 11-9, 3-11, 4-11, 12-10), against Pavlov (+2).

With the next two matches shared, it was left to Grindrod and Pavlov (+2) to finish it off 3-1 (11-2, 11-1, 8-11, 11-4) against a tiring Martin and Pete Bloomfield (-11). Thankfully, the match ended at 11.15pm, some 30 minutes earlier than the ‘E’ team’s previous marathon Cup match.   

Brotherhood A are the only remaining top-flight team left in the competition after their hard-fought 5-3 victory against fellow-Division One side Walton C.  

Four of the individual matches went the distance, the tightest being match six when Brotherhood led 4-1. Kevin Gowlett (-5) had match points to wrap things up against Mark Ratcliffe (+2) in both the fourth and fifth sets, but Ratcliffe fought back with some incredible backhand winners to keep the tie alive, winning 3-2 (5-11, 11-7, 9-11, 12-10, 15-13).

Jason Gale (-1) then beat Russell Hillier (+1) to reduce the deficit to 4-3, but Brotherhood skipper, Grant Sharpe, produced his best form to settle the tie, defeating Paul Meikle in four sets in a match played off scratch.

Gowlett, Hillier and Sharpe all picked up a singles win but, crucially, Brotherhood won both the doubles played.

The all-Second Division encounter between Windsor Kestrels and Walton D was equally hard-fought and another tie where four of the matches went the distance.

Jackie Bunce was the Kestrels’ star, staying undefeated in her four matches, three of which went the distance. In her first singles (on +1) she beat Clive Allenby (-5) 3-2 (7-11, 11-7, 6-11, 9-11, 11-6), she then shared a doubles success with Debra Found (+1) 3-2 (13-11, 7-11, 11-2, 7-11, 13-11) over Andy Foster and Walton reserve Lynette Sparks (-3) before settling the tie in match eight, (on +1) beating Sparks (-1) 3-2 (15-17, 8-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-4).

Once again, the Kestrels proved the importance of taking both doubles played.

In the semi-finals, the Kestrels have been drawn against the Leopards whilst Brotherhood A (who include a grade 1 player) will face Brotherhood E (who have a grade 16 player) in a potentially long match. These ties will be played during week beginning 13th March, with the final taking place at the Brotherhood Hall on Tuesday 4th April.   

* Windsor Buzzards got back to winning ways in Division Two of the League, defeating lowly Brotherhood D 8-2. Andy Cawley’s hat-trick for the winners included a 3-2 (12-10, 5-11, 10-12, 11-8, 11-7) win over Kevin Pryor. There were two each for Pete Bloomfield and Dave Martin, as there was for Brotherhood’s Pryor.

Walton D maintained their promotion challenge, defeating Lawford 6-4 for a second time this season. Andy Foster stayed unbeaten and there were two for Clive Allenby.

But the scoreline could easily have been reversed, Foster beating Richard Spence 11-9 in the decider in the first match of the evening and Allenby defeating the same player 11-5 in the decider in match ten. The doubles went equally close, Foster and Allenby beating Spence and Ian Sherwood 11-8 in the decider. Charlie Denholm picked up two good wins for Lawford.

Nomads Bobcats played two matches on the same evening in Division Three, using six different players.

The Bobcats went down 6-4 to Nomads Ocelots, Chris Wilmotte, Arthur Wells-Garrett and Hazel Blanche all winning two, although none of them could get the better of the Bobcats’ John Morley who took his maximum.

Norman Jacobs played well to take Wells-Garrett close, losing 11-4 in the decider, whilst James Horsler came even closer, going down 13-11 in the decider to Blanche. But Horsler had some consolation when, with Morley, they took the doubles against Wells-Garrett and Wilmotte, only the second doubles success of the season for the Bobcats.

In their second match, the Bobcats, playing with a guest, lost 9-1 to Windsor Magpies. Doug Green took the Bobcats’ consolation point and nearly made it two, Dave Sweetland winning their individual battle 3-2 (11-8, 15-13, 9-11, 5-11, 11-7).

* The League’s Closed Championships, sponsored by Gary Cattermole and The Survey Initiative, will be held over the weekend of 1st and 2nd April at the Clacton Coastal Academy. Details and entry forms have been sent to all players, and are also on the League’s website. Entries should be sent online to Peter White or by post to Tony Oswick. The closing date for entry is Friday 10th March.