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The last match. The last leg. And the last gasp effort. The Men’s 1sts Darts came down to the absolute wire, leaving throats shredded, heart strings torn, and the last nerve bared, as York recorded a 5-4 victory.
The Men’s Darts, held on on the Saturday night of Roses, has always been a bit of a spectacle; but the 2013 fixture will go down in the memories of both sets of fans for a multitude of reasons. The venue, it must be said, was excellent; York’s Darts Chairman, Nick Hall, had clearly gone to a huge amount of effort in organising the event, which for many is considered the highlight of the Saturday fixtures. To be a darts player, one must be able to cope with the isolation of the game; and the raised stage, bright lights, constantly running TV cameras, and a baying crowd of Red and White Rose fans, meant there was nowhere to hide for either set of players.
York were victorious in the first two matches of the evening; Lancaster’s Josh Littlemore and Mike Tyers going down to York opponents in tense, well contested matches. It was left to Martin Bridson to open up Lancaster’s account to bring the score to 2-1 in favour of York. Bridson not only won his match in consecutive legs, but also managed to clock up a very impressive 365 off of 9 darts. Lancaster fans had something to cheer about at last, and when Jordan Robson stepped up to despatch his York counterpart, Harry Smith, in an excellent display, the Red Rose fans were once again in full voice. The score now stood at 2-2.
York however managed to claw their way back into the lead through their fifth player, Lee McManus, who managed to dispatch Lancaster’s Ben “Dante”; credit should go to the Lancastrian, who managed to check out on 48 in the first, thus taking his York opponent all the way to the wire. This was one of the longest matches of the night, with the second leg being won by York on 72nd dart.
Next up, James Duffy of Lancaster took on York Dart’s Chairman, Nick Hall; a clear favourite of the White Rose supporters. The monumental support of York carried Hall through the first leg; but Duffy showed steel and determination to dispatch his opponent in the further two legs. In a rare Roses moment where both sets of fans can show appreciation for an individual, special mention was credited to Hall, who has been a powerhouse for York’s Darts team over the years, and who was responsible for organising the facilities used on the evening.
With the score standing at 3-3, York managed to once more pull out into the lead through Lee Wilkinson, who dispatched Lancaster’s Nathan Cooper in straight legs. This meant that York took a 4-3 lead; Lancaster would now have to win every match from now on if there was to be any hope of a victorious fight back. Thankfully for Lancaster, the indomitable figure of Darts Captain Ollie Charlton stepped up to the mark, against York’s Student Activities officer, Chris West. In an incredibly tense match, which saw both players claim a leg each, it was Ollie Charlton who came out on top. His victory, coupled with a rather tasty 131 gained during the final leg, saw the Lancaster contingent roar in defiance against the ever vocal York support.
Enthusiasm began to boil over on occasion, with the Darts commentator being forced to single out individuals who repeatedly attempted to put off their oppositions player. As the game was level at 4-4, Captain Ollie Charlton decided to go with the confident and reliable figure of Mike Logan, in the hope that he could guide Lancaster to a famous fight back. Logan had already proven his mettle that evening, recording victory in the Men’s Pool. His opponent, Kris Hilliam, was not about to let Logan have it all his own way however. Logan recorded victory in the first leg, showing patience and skill, and lapping up the aggressive chants of the York support. Hilliam rallied in the second leg, meaning that the third and final leg of the final match of the evening, would decide which side left with a valuable 4 points going into the final day.
In heart-breaking fashion, the ever smug Hilliam managed to best his Lancastrian opponent. Lancaster fans were left broken and grim of face, as cries of “Yorkshire! Yorkshire!” boomed around the arena. A huge amount of credit must go to York, who organised a very successful Roses Darts fixture; but even more credit should go to Lancaster’s brave lads, who showed skill and determination, weathering the torrents of York abuse, and clinging on right until the death.