With both teams in a good vein of form, this Monday night encounter was always likely to provide some fierce competition. With the home advantage, the Cartmelians aimed to snatch a surprise win against the one of the league favourites.
This contest got off a frenetic start with Mark Lucas of Cartmel and Gavin Reid of Graduate scoring heavily. Reid took the first leg with some assured finishing, however, Lucas was not to be denied as hit a double top finish under huge pressure to take this game to a deciding leg. Despite being pegged back, Reid showed great composure and checked out on double 18 to draw first blood for Graduate.
Former Cartmel Monday night hero Matthew Todd was pitted against the up and coming darts man of Cartmel, Dan Williams in the second game. Todd took the first leg convincingly, narrowly missing out on a 116 checkout to take the early advantage. The second leg looked to be following a similar pattern before Todd inexplicably bust a 111 check out with two darts; Williams punished this mercilessly to ensure a third leg was required. After a shaky start Todd recovered his composure to sneak through 2-1.
With a 2-0 lead established Graduate went for the jugular, naming Richard ‘Bob’ Floyd, Cartmel named Ben Smith, who continued his run of playing extremely strong opponents each week. Yet the game was not a foregone conclusion with Smith holding his ground and hitting plentiful twenty’s of varying worth. However, Floyd held his nerve as always and extinguished any hopes of a Smith victory with superb finishing.
Cartmel were on the ropes and threw on Philip Flenley. However, Flenley was not able to ease Cartmel’s suffering against former County college darts captain, Pete Watt. With Watt throwing well and Flenley under par and only scoring well in flourishes, he was fortunate to grab a leg. Watt showed flashes of his best form to put Graduate into a commanding position.
In an act of desperation Cartmel co-captain Mike Walton threw in his lot with a great display to win 2-0 against a decent rival in George Lincoln. Assured finishing made sure a first game could be claimed for Cartmel.
A second Graduate player seeing his return to the familiar surroundings of Cartmel college was an in form Michael Phelan. But against second year Matt Dawson he was unable to show the consistency that had brought him a good record so far. With Dawson keeping in touching distance he pounced on Phelan’s poor finishing and took the game 2-0. After snatching two games in a row Cartmel were on a roll and Graduate seemed to be cracking under the pressure.
However in game 7, Dave Johnson of Graduate matched the performance of his team-mates in the first four games of the night. As the chant of ‘Food hall Dave’ rang around Cartmel JCR, it was Johnson who settled first. Walter Taylor tried his best to fight back and two double tops gave him a chance to notch a 100+ checkout, but the challenger stood up strong to win 2-0 and guarantee Graduate the victory overall.
With the game wrapped up, Graduate captain Tom Webb made a cameo appearance against his opposite number Mark Sercombe. Webb continued his form of previous weeks, playing his own brand of unconventional darts and scored at a reasonable level throughout. However, Sercombe was able to call on superior finishing to take this game 2-0, hitting the tricky double 13 with his first dart.
The final contest saw George Hardy of Graduate play Cartmel’s James Whittaker. There was a jovial atmosphere about the game, mainly instigated by Graduate who seemed intent to distract the usually ice cool Hardy. Although he was facing a superior opponent, Whittaker used this distraction to his advantage and kept on Hardy’s tail with some decent scoring. However, class shone through as Hardy hit his doubles with ease to win 2-0 and secure an overall 6-3 win for Graduate.
Graduate continue to occupy the upper reaches of the table for the first time in living memory. Despite defeat, Cartmel sit well placed after a good first three games. The spirit showed by Cartmel will stand them in good stead for future big games, if their very experienced squad can improve marginally, then they will threaten at the top of the table. Graduate will continue to enjoy their success one match at a time and if they can remain consistent, there is the possibility of upsetting the usual suspects in the title race.