Only four teams in the history of the Clacton & District League have ever won the Cup and League ‘double’ on more than one occasion – but Nomads Panthers are aiming to be the fifth team. And, with the Division One League title almost guaranteed, they’re just two matches away from repeating ‘the double’ they achieved in the 2017-18 season.

This week, in Round Two of the knockout stage of the Handicap Cup, the Panthers made it through to the semi-finals with a hard-fought 5-4 win over club-mates Nomads Lions.

In a typically tight cup tie, the two teams shared the first four matches before the Panthers took a 4-2 lead. But the Lions fought back, Dave Miller beating Greg Green, and Colin Webber defeating Liam Harris, to take the tie into a deciding doubles, where Green and Sam Hume settled the outcome by beating Miller and Jason Lloyd. Hume was the player of the match, staying unbeaten in both singles and doubles.

Jason Lloyd of the Lions was involved in the two closest matches of the tie. In the opening doubles, he and Webber defeated Green and Harris 3-2 (11-4, 10-12, 11-7, 7-11, 11-2) and then, in match three, the Lions’ captain edged past Harris in five (11-5, 9-11, 6-11, 11-7, 11-5).

Unusually for a cup match, all the Panthers’ players were graded ‘0’ and all the Lions’ players as ‘4’ This meant every individual match was played off the same handicap of +2 (for the Lions) and -6 (for the Panthers) – a unique occurrence, perhaps, in the history of the Cup?

There will be a second Nomads team in the semi-finals after Nomads Jaguars – who only qualified for the knockout stage as one of the best third-placed teams in the group stage – beat Windsor Harriers 5-3 in an all-Division Two tie

The match see-sawed for the first six games, the Harriers leading 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2. But, with the scores level at 3-all, Daryl Lott (-3) edged out Ferdy Rodriguez (+1) 3-2 (2-11, 5-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-9) in a quality clash which proved pivotal, giving the Jaguars the lead for the first time. Andrew Cousins then became his side’s unlikely hero, beating Jenny Higgins 3-0 (11-5, 14-12, 12-10) in a scratch match to see the Jaguars through.

Lott and Cousins each won their two singles for the Jaguars, whilst Higgins was the Harriers’ best player, winning both her doubles and (on +5) taken a fine singles win over Chris Petrou (-5) 3-0 (11-0, 11-9, 11-5).

The Walton Club also has two teams in the semi-finals – but probably not the two which may have been expected.

Walton A and Walton C met for a second time in this competition, having previously met in the group stage. On that occasion, the ‘A’ team had taken the match 5-4, thanks to a last-gasp doubles win, but this time it proved a trifle more comfortable, the ‘A’ side running out 5-2 winners.

Daniel Young was unbeaten in both singles and doubles, while Gary Young took his two singles in tight matches, (on -8) beating John Marshall (+3) 3-2 (9-11, 7-11, 11-9, 12-10, 11-5) and, on the same handicaps, defeating Paul Newbould in five (11-5, 11-5, 2-11, 8-11, 11-8). However, the true hero for Walton A was Paul Woolnough, who gallantly stepped in as a very late replacement for the unavailable Gavin Price.

For the ‘C’ team, Newbould took a singles win whilst Marshall and John Rankin (+1) beat Gary Young and Woolnough (-6) 3-2 (11-3, 8-11, 11-4, 9-11, 13-11).

But it was Walton E, aiming to become the first side from Division Three to make it to a cup final since 2008, who are the surprise team of the competition. Making good use of their handicap advantage, Clive Allenby, Tony Sharman and Lynette Sparks continued their progress with a fine 5-2 win over First Division Walton B.

The ‘E’ team took an early 3-0 lead, including a close opening doubles, Sharman and Sparks (+2) beating Colin Dearman and Derek Willis (-11) 3-2 (11-2, 8-11, 9-11, 11-3, 11-5). And although the ‘B’ team bounced back to reduce the lead to 3-2, the Third Division outfit took the next two singles to take their place in the last four.  

In the semi-finals, Walton E have been given a tough draw against Nomads Panthers, whilst Walton A will host Nomads Jaguars. These matches are to be played during week beginning 21st March, with the final taking place on Tuesday 5th April at the Brotherhood Hall.

* In Division Two of the League, Lawford’s Richard Spence, Charlie Denholm and Ian Sherwood had a predictable 10-0 victory over Nomads Bobcats. The hardest-fought match was the doubles, Spence and Denholm defeating Dave Harris and Andy Teemal 3-2 (2-11, 11-8, 11-5, 9-11, 11-4).

Brotherhood C played twice this week, a re-scheduled match and a match brought forward, and came away with a win and a draw. Mark Salter remained unbeaten in both.

In the re-scheduled match, the Brotherhood team shared the spoils with Nomads Jaguars, Salter’s hat-trick including an 11-8 in the decider victory over Daryl Lott. Barry Allen added a singles win and joined with Tricia Salter to take the doubles. For the Jaguars, Lott and Chris Petrou each won two and Andrew Cousins one. Lott was involved in a second close contest, edging past Allen 3-2 (11-9,13-11, 12-14, 9-11, 11-8). It was the Jaguars’ first drawn match of the season.

And, in the match brought forward, the ‘C’ team were 7-3 winners against club-mates Brotherhood E, with Russell Hillier also taking a hat-trick alongside Salter.

In an all-Windsor clash in Division Three, the Magpies were 7-3 victors over Windsor Robins, for whom Neil Chegwidden was once again undefeated. The doubles was the only match which went to five, John Plummer and Malcolm Caley of the Magpies beating Chegwidden and Mick Coker 8-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-6, 11-4.

Finally, Brotherhood F beat Nomads Lynx 7-2, the unusual scoreline a result of both teams fielding a guest player. Alex Marsh and Ben Bryden were unbeaten for Brotherhood.

* Entry forms for the Closed Championships have been sent to all players. The Championships, sponsored by The Survey Initiative, courtesy of Gary Cattermole, are being held on the weekend of 9th and 10th April at the Coastal Academy Sports Hall.

Entries can be made on-line to Peter White or sent by post to Tony Oswick. The closing date for entry is Friday 18th March. Full details are on the League’s website.

Round Two
Walton B 2 Walton E 5
Nomads Lions 4 Nomads Panther 5
Walton A 5 Walton C 2
Nomads Jaguars 5 Windsor Harriers 3
Division One
Brotherhood A 2 Walton A 8
Division Two
Lawford 10 Nomads Bobcats 0
Brotherhood E 3 Brotherhood C 7
Nomads Jaguars 5 Brotherhood C 5
Division Three
Brotherhood F 9 Nomads Leopards 1
Windsor Robins 3 Windsor Magpies 7
Nomads Lynx 2 Brotherhood F 7