The first of two big matches since my last Darts World summary was the big local derby against Essex, who came into the game needing a win to create some distance between themselves and the relegation trap door. London have had a number of good starts already this season courtesy of the Ladies B but on this occasion couldn’t keep the run going. First up to the oche was Sarah Cronin (13.11) who never really got going in her straight legs defeat. Shazza McMahon (12.38) had a few chances to take the opener, but wasn’t able to pin the outshot and the next two legs were ceded without having a pop at the outer ring. Dee Belcher (15.03) got London’s first chalk of the weekend in the second leg of her match, thanks to a lovely 73 outshot, and then immediately backed it up in the next to go one away. But an even contest went down to the wire. Both players had opportunities to walk away with the point, but in the end it was Belcher who had to watch as Essex made it three on the spin.
The fourth match of the morning finally saw London add a point to the win column. It looked all ends up that the visitors would go four clear as Debs Watling (20.02) was on the wrong side of some quality finishing in the opening two legs. But from that point on, there was only one winner. Watling turned on the afterburners and found some real consistency on the big trebles. This enabled her to rattle off three on the bounce in double quick time and claim the match award for her efforts. The opening leg of the next encounter took some time to conclude. Mandy Solomons (14.40) wasn’t able to win the double one shootout, and lost the leg after to boot. She avoided the whitewash but didn’t get a blow in the next to go down in four. The session concluded with another London victory. Tammy Mackenzie (16.86) was more clinical at the business end of each leg and her “never say die” attitude yielded its reward with the game winner in leg four.
London went into the Men’s B with hopes of reducing the small deficit but struggled throughout. Liam Hill (27.28) got the hosts off to a flier. After losing the first leg, he reeled off three straight to assume control. The fifth went with throw before Hill took out a pressure 96 with his opponent sitting on a double to halve the overall lead and snare the match award for good measure. Danny Brown (22.88) started off on the front foot, cantering to the opening leg. He lost the next two and then barely got a look in as he was seen off in the fifth. The third match was a high-quality affair with plenty of red figures and decent finishes on offer. John Hind (28.85) more than played his part, cracking home 78 to equalise in leg two. Eventually, he was defeated in the sixth, but on another day could easily have bagged the win in minimum time. Matt Wood (26.24) had his finishing boots on, as he claimed London’s second point of the session. After going two behind, a smart 99 take-out saw him go on a run of three legs which concluded with a brilliant 121 to nip in front. The match ended up going the full trip. Wood had the darts in the last and survived match darts before sealing the deal.
Essex then upped the ante. London had no answer to the visitors, as they took the next seven matches without reply. Jason Gallagher (24.34) went the full complement in a very even match where every leg went with the man throwing first. Matt Winzar (22.39) looked down and out at three nil down, briefly raised hopes of a comeback in the fourth when firing home an 88 finish before the Pirate’s ship was sunk in leg five. Scott Artiss (23.39) put himself in the box seat after four legs, only needing one more. But he couldn’t get himself over the winning line and lost in the finale.
The seventh leg was notable for some outstanding finishes, with three of a ton or more. John Loeber (24.09) was on the receiving end of two of them before showing he was no slouch either with a sublime 103 of his own in the fifth. However another decent out shot of 80 saw the match conclude in leg sixth as Essex continued their winning streak. A sluggish start soon saw Steve Ferguson (23.93) two in arrears and try as he might, the gap remained before the match ended in the sixth. London were now squarely behind the eight-ball, and the gap widened still further with Dean Coughlan (24.13) losing in five. The penultimate contest of the day also went five legs. Alex Harris (26.60) was scoring well enough but didn’t get many chances at the outer ring in losing the first three legs. A 76 checkout saw “Shiver” get a well deserved leg on the board, but despite being in close contention, a fantastic set up shot of 177 to leave 32 by his opponent proved too much of a mountain to climb and the match ended in the sixth. London now were in desperate need of a point, and finally got it in a tense decider that needed all seven legs. Danny Faulkner (25.45) nudged ahead in leg five on the back of a 91 checkout, and he needed all his composure to finish the job in the last leg after seeing match darts against him missed.
The session concluded with a 9-3 sectional win for Essex that gave them a commanding 13-5 lead at the halfway mark.
London began day two needing a good win from the Ladies A to try and set the stage for a grandstand finish. Essex were having none of it, and replicated their 4-2 win of the previous morning. Joanne Deamer (16.68) took the opener but lived to regret numerous missed chances to double the lead. After that she never had a poke at double in the next two legs as she was beaten in four. Nikki Patten (17.81) was seen off in minimum time, and a similar fate befell Lynne Biondini (14.37) in the third match. The next contest also went the shortest possible distance, but this time the honours went to the home side. Juliane Birchill (15.82) scored well but despite struggling on her doubles, especially in leg two was able to register the first London point of the day. There wasn’t too long to wait for the next win which came in five legs. Match award winner Steph Stutley (20.17) was facing the prospect of London’s third whitewash of the session as she lost the first two legs, before turning the game on its head with a sustained burst of scoring that her opponent couldn’t match, as she reeled off three on the trot for the point. The session ended with another five leg battle. Carly Townsend (17.14) traded the first four legs on throw and started the decider with two scores of a ton or more in her first three visits. Six missed darts to clinch it proved costly as her opponent then fired home a 95 out shot to bag the win, and leave the visitors needing only two more points in the final stanza to walk away with the bonus points.
The Men’s A had a tough ask, and although failing to prevent the win gave a good account of themselves in narrowly losing the section 7-5. The big trebles were in evidence throughout the first match of the concluding session as John Walters (24.84) lost in five legs, which assured Essex of a draw at the very least. Steve Beasley (23.54) also went five legs, but came away with the spoils of victory, the highlight coming in leg four with a brilliant 121 check to restore a two leg advantage. The third match could have been billed as the “Battle of the Browns”, with London’s Wayne (25.45) taking on Keegan for Essex. The Londoner stormed into a two nil lead with some excellent finishing backing up the good scoring. A 76 finish took the opener and he then piled on the pressure with a brilliant 104 to create some daylight. From that point on the Essex man was chasing, but Wayne Brown had enough in hand to complete a fine victory in the sixth.
London then made it three successive wins as Lewis McGurn (29.70) produced his best performance in quite some time to bag the match award. After taking the opener, he produced a magnificent 136 out shot for a 12 darter to go two in front. The next three legs also saw a break of throw, as did the sixth and deciding leg which McGurn ended with a classy 80 finish. Will Blackwell (27.00) started the sixth match with a smart 72 finish to keep the Essex champagne on ice. He played well in the four legs that followed, but had no answer to a majestic display from Craig Vickers (35.21) who fired in two maximums as he went out in 15, 14,14 and 16 to pop the corks in majestic style.
With the overall result in the bag, London’s focus was simply to keep the margin of victory to a minimum. Graham Rackstraw (26.32) showed his usual grit, taking the match to six legs when a whitewash was looking likely with him three nil in arrears. Daniel Day (27.53) signed off with aplomb as he took out 86 to win his encounter in leg six, but that proved to be the last time a London hand was raised as Essex took the last four matches of the weekend. Ben West (23.22) never recovered from a sluggish start and couldn’t get a leg on the board. David Wawrzewski (25.85) lost in seven, but would have been disappointed to come out on the losing side of the equation having led two nil and three two. Chris Holt (23.22) suffered a rare defeat, although the two legs he did take were with stylish finishes of 96 and 116 respectively.
The last game also went six legs. Gene Hill (22.90) took the opening leg but was never in it as he lost three in succession and was chasing from that point on, which meant London ended the weekend with a heavy 24-12 defeat.
“The Pearly King”
Supported by The Horseshoe Pub, Clerkenwell and Darts GB