2017 Team Handicap Competitions
In the Bury Free Press Shield, Andy Cullen’s slump of form before Christmas resulted in him gaining a favourable handicap rating for Thurston Spitfires which he used to good effect in the early rounds. In Round 1 he paired with Paul Evans and helped Spitfires gain a surprisingly easy 10-2 victory over the eventual Division 1 League winners, British Sugar. They were represented by Dom Melero and Bob Harman, who drew a blank.
In Round 2 the same Spitfires pair had a much tougher task against their clubmates Sean Gridley and Sonja Talbot of Thurston Victors. The singles were closely contested and it took a 21-18, 21-18, 21-18 win by Cullen over Talbot to ensure a 6-6 score going into doubles. The Spitfires were then always in control and took the first two legs 21-16, 21-15 to clinch the match 8-6.
In Round 3 Mark Cracknell replaced Cullen and his two victories enabled Spitfires to take a 7-2 lead against Ian Freeman and Robert Duncombe of Thurston Victors. However, Duncombe then beat Evans 3-0 and the Victors’ pair took the first two legs of the doubles 21-18, 21-12 to level the match. The third leg was much closer with chances being missed at crucial times but In the end Spitfires scraped through 24-22 for an 8-7 match victory.
Cullen returned for the semi-final against the youngsters of Bury Commandoes. In the early rounds PJ Davis and Rory McEniry-Brash had beaten their clubmates Vikings 8-7 and Romans 9-6. However, McEniry-Brash was unavailable and Gabe Sorooshian had to step into the breach. Although Davis won both of his singles 2-1 the Spitfires had a 7-5 lead going into the doubles which they also won for an overall 9-6 victory.
In the other half of the draw Isaac Cunningham’s indifferent league form saw him also on a favourable handicap mark and with Riya Kumar the Rougham Panthers’ pairing saw off Bury Conquerors 11-4 in their first match. They then romped to an 8-1 win over Rougham Rangers before facing a much more difficult task against Stowmarket Tigers in the semi-final.
It took a 5-1 singles margin for Cunningham to give Panthers a 7-5 lead going into the doubles. However, Tony Giddens and Andrew Oakley took the first two legs 21-16, 21-18 to level the match and make Tigers the favourites. With the chips down the Panthers then began playing more convincingly and took the final leg 21-16 for an 8-7 match victory.
In the final the Cullen/Evans pairing was restored for Spitfires but their more open style of play was much more to the liking of Panthers and made it very difficult for them to overhaul the handicap deficit. The Panthers led 11-1 after the singles and took the trophy with a final 12-3 victory.
Thurston Arrows used a rotating family squad in both competitions featuring Gordon Meadows, his son Robert, and daughter Katie Foulger. They reached the consolation Saffrons Shield final fairly easily with 11-4 and 9-6 victories over Division 1 opponents Bury Vikings and British Sugar.
There they met the Bury Normans team of Goran Gelevski and Roger Whomes who followed a 9-6 win over Stowmarket Pumas with an 8-7 victory over Martin Haines and Martin O’Leary of British Sugar Blades. As Normans held an unassailable 8-4 lead after the singles the final result made the match appear much tighter than it sounds.
As in the main competition the final was fairly one-sided with Gordon and Katie romping into a 10-2 lead after the singles and giving everyone an early finish.
Bury Free Press Shield
Thurston Arrows 9-6 Bury Crusaders, Thurston Victors 11-4 RATTS, Thurston Spitfires 10-2 British Sugar
Thurston Victors 12-3 Thurston Arrows, Thurston Spitfires 8-6 Thurston Vulcans, Bury Romans 8-7 Stowmarket Bobcats, Bury Commandoes 8-7 Bury Vikings, Rougham Panthers 11-4 Bury Conquerors, Rougham Rangers 8-5 British Sugar Blades, Stowmarket Leopards 13-2 Stowmarket Pumas, Stowmarket Tigers 12-3 Bury Normans
Thurston Spitfires 8-7 Thurston Victors, Bury Commandoes 9-6 Bury Romans, Rougham Panthers 8-1 Rougham Rangers, Stowmarket Tigers 9-6 Stowmarket Leopards
Thurston Spitfires 9-6 Bury Commandoes, Rougham Panthers 8-7 Stowmarket Tigers
Rougham Panthers 12-3 Thurston Spitfires
Bury Crusaders 11-4 RATTS, British Sugar 9-6 Stowmarket Bobcats, Bury Vikings 8-7 Bury Conquerors
British Sugar 9-6 Bury Crusaders, Thurston Arrows 11-4 Bury Vikings, British Sugar Blades 8-4 Thurston Vulcans, Bury Normans 9-6 Stowmarket Pumas
Thurston Arrows 9-6 British Sugar, Bury Normans 8-7 British Sugar Blades
Thurston Arrows 10-2 Bury Normans