Midland Counties League
The Midland Counties Billiards League has suffered a sudden and
severe depletion in the number of teams competing, from an ideal eight
sides two seasons ago to a bare minimum of four for the current campaign.
However this reduction in teams has allowed for the monthly matches
to become home and away fixtures and a further innovation this season
is the introduction of a full individual handicap system, with the
assessments ranging from scratch to receive two hundred points – all
games remain a duration of one hour.
The change has certainly led to closer, more competitive games, with
four of the six pre-Christmas fixtures ending in 5-4 results. Stoke-on-
Trent, runaway winners of the League in both of the previous two
seasons, have moved into pole position again following a strong
performance at Rugby that resulted in a 7-2 victory for the Champions,
but neighbours Stafford are in very close attendance a mere one point
adrift. The fewer number of games now being played means that there
is little likelihood of approaching the pinnacle of two seasons ago when
twelve players between them hit a total of thirty-five century breaks;
indeed to date this year only three tons have been recorded by Peter
Shelley (125, 102) and Maurice Chapman (102). Shelley is also the
leading player in terms of individual wins, with seven victories and one
tied game in nine outings, while League newcomer Dave Hall, representing
Rugby, has proved to be a valuable signing for the Warwickshire outfit
with seven successes out of nine.
Stoke-on-Trent 5 Worcester 4; Rugby 5 Stafford 4; Worcester 4 Rugby 5; Stafford 5½
Stoke-on-Trent 3½; Stafford 5 Worcester 4; Rugby 2 Stoke-on-Trent 7.
The winners of the honours two years ago, St John’s “B”, seem intent
upon reclaiming the Worcester Billiard League title after opening up a
four point advantage over reigning champions, St Stephens “A”, at the
mid-point of the current campaign.
Lighting the way for the leaders is Nicky Vaughan, who is undefeated
in nine games, and newcomer Kevin Rose, who, in his first billiards
season, has impressively claimed ten scalps in the thirteen games that
he has played.
Captain Mick Painter is doing his very best to keep the St Stephens
challenge in touch, being successful eleven times from fourteen, while
team-mate John Smith, although rather less consistent, has notched the
highest break to date with 84.
Third placed GWR, for whom Roy Cale has strung together ten
successes, lie three points adrift of St Stephens “A”, but are some way
clear of the rest of the field. There seems little prospect of any team
from outside of the three principals getting to grips with the leaders.
At one time it appeared probable that GWR would be lost from the
league, but a couple of former players have been tempted back into
action with the result that the team has survived and prospered, while
league numbers have been maintained at the present level of eight sides.
The Evesham League is run outside the conventional season to avoid a
conflict with players snooker commitments and therefore reaches a
conclusion in the autumn. In 2002 the League title was claimed by
Evesham Servicemens Club, who edged out Offenham British Legion
“A” by two points, with the remaining five teams locked together
within three points of each other but someway distant behind the two
principals. Offenham “A” suffered a season of near misses, for as well
as just dipping out on the championship they were beaten in the final
of the cup competition by Badsey British Legion, the Badsey men
having excelled the previous year by doing the double.
The singles title has recently been dominated by Tony Baylis but, with
Baylis taking a year off, League Secretary Dave Warner seized his
opportunity to claim the honours by edging out Gordon Perkins
(Pershore W.M.C) in a close, hard-fought final. Warner entertained
hopes of adding to his success when he and partner John Haines reached
the pairs final, but the Offenham two were unable to overcome the
Servicemen duo Charlie Townsend and Bob Wood.
Gary Parker, who comfortably saw off the challenge of Ted Haughtey
of Pershore Working Mens in the final, took the handicap singles
competition. This was a good performance from Parker in his first full
season at the three-ball game and his achievement was further recognised
by him also receiving an award for “best newcomer”. The highest break
of the season, a 49, came from Offenham’s “Ticker” Thompson, a fairly
recent convert from snooker who clearly used his potting skills to
advantage to out-do the more experienced billiards exponents.