Last Thursday night (26th January) eight teams met at the new Crewe Lifestyle Centre to contest the John Ford quarter finals. As always the handicappers met early doors to wield their magic wands. The players took to the hall – many for the first time I this venue. Oddly half of the courts area was slippy and the other half not bad, we wondered about the technique used to clean the floor. 4 courts and 4 matches played concurrently. This is what happened match by match:

Canute V1 Kings took on Goostrey Goosebumps. Canute fielded an experienced mens line up: Manbun Lee, Phil Wall and John Hunter. Their ladies were Mie Wall, Helen Woolacot and relatively inexperienced Kythe Kimber. Goostrey were a familiar ladies line up of Connie Hedeler, Pam Jeffs and Barbara Eades. The chaps were father and son combo Carl McGregor Ogden and Cameron plus Rob Evans. It had looked to the handicappers as if Goostrey needed a helping hand and settled on 36. The key game turned out to be John/Kythe v Carl/Pam. The Canute pair defied the odds by winning a game 21-12. Lots of other games were close. Canute ended up on 369 and Goostrey on 262. With handicap that got Goostrey up to 298 still a difference of 71 (equating to 4 points a game).

South Cheshire had the unenviable task of taking on Welsh Row. A typically strong outfit of: Jack Raiswell, Jez Touch, Warren Simpson, Zoe Raiswell, Claire Griffin and Sam Warwick took on a very inexperienced South Cheshire team of Greg Marshal, Reddy Bhagat, Mike Stallard, Aurelia Dakin, Caroline Stephen and Jo Moss. The handicappers wondered what the maximum could be!! In the end they chose to award South Cheshire 260 points. It can happen. South Cheshire fought really well. Of course they did not win any games, however, Mike and Jo should be proud of taking 12 points off Jez and Zoe in one game. Greg and Reddy collected 13 and 15 point in the  games against Jack and Warren. Caroline and Jo took 10 points off Claire and Zoe. These above par games were important. The scores were maximum 378 to Welsh Row, South Cheshire’s reply was 157. The handicap took them to 417 giving them the edge by 39 points (just over 2 points a game). This is the beauty of John Ford – the top players cannot afford to loosen off at all.

Weaverham had a touch of youth and let’s say bags of experience in their team. Kevin Ashley, Andy Brown and Sam Quires partnered Helen Weaver, Janet Thorpe and Sue Deakin. Holmes Chapel lost sight of the youth element and just went for experience. Mike Davey, Ian Brookhouse and Paul Frith were with Karen Brookhouse, Sally Barnett and Gail Armstrong. It looked as if Holmes Chapel would need a helping hand so the handicappers duly awarded 44 points. The match score would have been 12-6 reflecting two closely matched opponents. There were lots of close games at  the end of which the scores were 338 to Weaverham, 307 to Holmes Chapel – a difference of 31 in Weaverhams favour. The handicap turned this round to a difference of 13 in favour of Holmes Chapel (0.7 points a game).

In the final match Whitfield sent out Dave Fox, Lee Crimes, Aaron Bentley, Jeanette Taylor, Becky Bentley, Jane Teague to face the might of CEGELEC and a few hundred years of experience: Mel Lievesley, Gary Whewall, Oscar Jackson, Gill Kelter, Gwyneth McGlaughlin and Margaret Hopkin. The handicappers felt Whitfield lacked the experience of cut throat competition against some of the leagues most hardened battlers. They were awarded 81 points. A match score of 11-7 suggested a well contested match. Only 4 games resulted in single figures for Whitfield and they won a couple of games against expectation. CEGELEC compiled 339 points to Whitfields 269 – a difference of 70 points. Giving them the 81 points handicap turned the deficit into a surplus of 11 points (0.6 points a game) and a win for Whitfield.

So the semi-finals on Friday 10th March will involve Canute, South Cheshire, Holmes Chapel and Whitfield, the draw to be made on the night