NCMT Shock wins for underdogs in Neil Clark Memorial Trophy
2008/2009 NEIL CLARK MEMORIAL TROPHY
For immediate release
Thursday, April 23rd, 2009
KING'S HEAD AND SHAKESPEARE WIN
MEMORABLE NEIL CLARK SEMI-FINALS
NEWPORT (Shropshire): The King's Head will meet the Shakespeare A in the final of the Neil Clark Memorial Trophy on June 3rd, after they disposed of the high-flying Audco A and Lilleshall Sports Centre (LSC) in two thrilling semi-finals.
The semi-final between the defending champions, Audco A, and the King's Head was switched from Chetwynd End to the Navy Club on the request of the champions. It may have been a neutral venue, but the result left the previously-unbeaten Audco stunned, as Mick Collins's King's Head side romped to a 4-2 win.
Mick Beech has hit stormy waters in recent weeks and was finally shipwrecked by an inspired Irene Whittington to put the underdogs 1-0 up. Anthony Heathcote punished Collins to level the scores, but Ian Perry's patient approach paid dividends against Colin Pink and the upset suddenly became reality. Andy Lycett levelled the scores with a win over Neil Hallett to set up a fascinating doubles session.
The odds were stacked in favour of the Audco, but former Newport Open champions, Paul Trevor and Colin Pink, were shell-shocked by an inspired Whittington and Collins and the King's Head found themselves 3-2 up.
Beech and Lycett had to beat Perry and Hallett to force a tie-break frame, but Perry stamped his authority on the game and the experienced pair duly celebrated a famous victory and the King's Head moved forward to the final.
It was a particularly poignant moment for Hallett, who had been a good friend of the late Neil Clark since his school days. Hallett will now be aiming to win the trophy in Clark's memory on finals' night. "It was our night tonight," said a delighted Collins. "We're in the final and must take nothing for granted, but I know this means a lot to a couple of our players and we will try and win it now."
The King's Head was chosen as the venue for the second match between the under-achieving Lilleshall Sports Centre and the improving Shakespeare A. Business commitments meant that LSC were without both Nick Clewley and Neil Perkins and Dave Marshall was absent from the Upper Bar side, but both teams had an impressive semi-final line-up nonetheless.
LSC skipper Dave Price ground out a useful frame win over Andrew Potts, after the Shakespeare player made a mistake at the vital moment. But lady luck shone on Laura Baker in the second frame; Greg Heathcote could only watch as a colour slipped into a pocket after he had potted the black to put LSC 2-0 up.
Ben Longstaff started tactically against Richard Young in rack three and had the Shakespeare skipper on the run for much of the frame. But Young kept his cool under pressure and managed to survive a barrage of snookers to snatch the frame and put the 'Shake' 2-1 up. Into the cauldron stepped Neil 'Hurricane' Hazeley and the LSC starlet wasn't fazed by the pressure. He managed to out-pot Don Brennan and level the match.
Longstaff and Heathcote faced Young and Baker in frame five and Heathcote capitalised on a Baker error to put LSC within sight of the final. But it was far from over.
Potts and Brennan overcame Hazeley and Price in a quick-fire sixth frame and the match headed into a tie-break decider, the tension heightened when news filtered through that the King's Head had beaten the Audco at the Navy Club.
Heathcote faced Young in the cauldron and the Shakespeare skipper started well after a poor break and left only one of his balls on the table. Heathcote covered the red for the next five visits as the tension mounted at Chetwynd End.
It was sixth time lucky for Young though and he managed to fluke a contact with the snookered red and actually potted it, the roar of approval from his team-mates signifying that the white had come to rest near the black.
He duly held his nerve to seal the match, cap a cruel night for young Heathcote and book the Shakespeare a memorable match against the King's Head. "We rode our luck tonight," said Young. "There's no doubting that. But it is a great feeling to reach the final."
The Neil Clark Memorial Trophy final and third-place play-off will now take place at the Navy Club in Newport on Wednesday, June 3rd.
2008/2009 Neil Clark Memorial Trophy - semi-final results
Audco A v King's Head, 2-4
Lilleshall Sports Centre v Shakespeare A, 3-4 (tie-break frame)
For further information:
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, Tel: 07831 123153