This time last year saw one of the most tense knock out cup
finals ever as Trent Trophies ‘A’ were struggling to keep
pace with the onslaught from the Alloa’s who had reached the winning
line with a three frame cushion. Trent Trophies had to use all their
wealth of experience to claw their way back in to the match. Then when
it seemed inevitable that Trent Trophies would draw level the Alloa’s
had a great opportunity to put the match to bed. When they failed, it
took two monster pots from Trent Trophies to level the match but they
got them and went on to win the play off 2-1. It’s unfortunate
for the Alloa’s but only a team like Trent Trophies could have
pulled a match so far out of their reach out of the fire and turn it
round so that they ran the winners.
Now it all starts again as Northampton’s Desborough and South Yorkshire’s
Dinnington try to stop Trent Trophies ‘A’ from starting yet another
march to yet another final. Of the two teams Desborough would seem to have
the best chance of toppling Trent Trophies from their perch mainly because
they are no strangers to the Interleague. Little is known about the third team
Dinnington, it’s their first time here as a team as far as I can tell.
If it is also the first time for their players as well the draw has been most
unkind to them. Unfortunately I can’t see any team winning this group
other than Trent Trophies. Let’s just hope that the teams in the group
can run Trent Trophies as close as possible before they succumb.
On the next table there is a real juicy group with C.O.B.H.P.L. ‘A’ from
Sussex (from here on Brighton) taking on Nottinghamshire’s Sutton in
the opening match of the group. This one is a tough match to call but I think
Brighton will just shade it, that means that Sutton will be fighting for survival
when they take on East Yorkshire’s Beverley A. This is going to be another
great match as Beverley A won their group last time round so I expect Beverley ‘A’ to
come through this one after being severely tested. This in turn will set up
a head to head tussle between Brighton and Beverley ‘A’. Who will
win this I don’t really know but I do know that it will end with one
team being very disappointed.
Paul Craig’s Sheffield I.P.L. has become an integral part of the National
Interleague Knock out Cup. Not perhaps as well known as Trent Trophies or Morley
Int. However, they are always there and enjoy their game. This time round they
have a tough start with a match against Cornwall’s Penwith whose skipper
Daniel Darlington is no stranger to the event. Penwith’s journey as far
as we can tell is the longest in the event. The third team in the group, Leicester
County, are also old hands at the event, their captain Ram Vadher has plenty
of experience of picking a winning team. All this makes it a tough group to
predict. I feel that Penwith will come out on top but only after a bloody battle.
But if things go wrong for Penwith the other two will be ready to pounce.
Imperial 2 has a serious task on their hands if they intend to live up to the
name “Imperial”. The mere mention that Imperial is in your group
drops the heartbeat by a few notches. Then the realisation sets in that this
is only Imperial 2. That’s the problem that players from Imperial 2
have. They have both teams to beat then on top of that they have to perform
to a level that justifies the Imperial tag.
As if that wasn’t enough to live with Imperial 2 have to find a way past
one of the top performers in the event in the shape of Ipswich with players
of the calibre of Alan Mower, Phil Cullingford, Michael Punschart and the Keeble
brothers. Then we have Nottinghamshire’s Gainsborough. They may not have
any superstars but they are none the less a respected team in Interleague circles.
Although both teams will give Ipswich a game you can only see one team winning
this group unless of course Ipswich fail to perform at there best then I would
say Gainsborough would be my choice.
This group is a mouth-watering prospect from a spectator’s point of view
with West Yorkshire’s Prince of Wales taking on Leicestershire’s
Leicester. This the first of the truly “big” teams having to face
each other in a group match both these teams would expect to reach the last
16 but one or both may not make it this time round. Prince of Wales boast players
like skipper Andy Grice, Yuk San Lee and of course Amy Hallas. Leicester will
counter this threat with Steve Robertshaw, Dave Smith, Dave Wileman & Mark
Selby. Then we have to add the presence of Godalming led by EPRA referee Steve
Brooker. Godalming are in a good position to mug the other teams since they
will have the advantage of seeing how the other two got on before they have
to enter the fray. That said if I have to pick a group winner I would go for
Picking the group winner from this set of three teams, on paper at least, is
easy. You would have to say that Nottinghamshire’s Ollerton are the
red hot favourites to qualify. However, team leader Geoff “no one can
out shout me” Wilson and his wife, Nottinghamshire county secretary
Sam, have this week added to their family with the birth of their daughter,
who will probably be the youngest ever debutant at Vauxhall’s coming
in at a mere three weeks old at the time of the event. So I suspect that
they will be spending some time doing other things than keeping Ollerton
Mind you, even without the Wilson’s Ollerton should be too strong for
the other two teams after all Ollerton did put to an end Trent Trophies ‘A’ in
the quarter finals last year. Sussex’s Brighton ‘P’ whilst
no strangers to event can not be thought of in the same esteem as Ollerton
Sadly the same is true of Wisbech (Cambridgeshire), they too are a good side
and capable of beating Ollerton and Brighton but its one those ties where anything
is possible but you still expect the favourites to come through in the end.
Ironically, on the very next table another team from Nottingham with a pedigree
in this event far beyond most of the teams here is Sun Valley. They like
Ollerton have slayed giants in their time, in their case they put an end
to Morley International at a time when everybody thought that Morley were
just too good to be beaten. But Sun Valley did. That kind of experience is
very hard to get the better of for teams that although good have never reached
the levels that Sun Valley consistently do.
I feel sure that Radcliffe (G.M.C.) would disagree with the previous statement
since they too have made a number of appearances at Great Yarmouth and given
a good account of themselves. Worthing however has not, as far as I am aware,
made inroads in the events that make you think they are a force too be reckoned
with. I go for Sun Valley for the reason that Radcliffe & Sun Valley will
be close as will Radcliffe and Worthing but Sun Valley will have too much fire
power for Worthing in the final match of the group.
Another of the groups that come under the not to be heading is this one where
Dawley ‘A’ (Shropshire) take on Kent’s Medway. Dawley should
if things go to form win this one with ease. This means that poor old Medway
go straight back on against Lancashire’s Wigan fighting for survival.
I can’t see Wigan taking any prisoners either. Not with Geoff Harrison
and Ian Davenport in their side. This means that Dawley ‘A’ will
take on Wigan for the right to go in the draw for the last 32 and what a
match that looks like being. Both teams know what it’s all about, both
teams have been there done that attitude. And both teams will know that one
on them is going in for an early bath. This really does promise to be a classic
match for the group stage. Mind you even after all I have said if Dawley
start slowly in their opening march it could well end up with Medway and
Wigan going head to head.
Kent’s Canterbury take on Sam Wilson’s Station all Blacks in the
opening match of this group and I think this one will be a close one with Canterbury
just shading it. Then the tyrannical dictator’s team enter the fray to
you and me that’s Lancashire’s Hyndburn. Hyndburn are one of the
odd balls in the K.O. Cup in that they are a better team than some of their
performances would have you believe. You have them down as clear winners then
they go and lose. Pick them for a battering and they will win just to spite
you. Regardless of the Jekyll & Hyde impersonation I would pick them to
be the winners of this group but wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t.
Oxfordshire’s Country club take on Kent’s Sheppey ‘A’.
going by past records you would have to favour Sheppey ‘A’ but
this time they will be without the services of Kurt Morris. This makes the
team a lot more susceptible to the sucker punch. But all of this will be meaningless
when Wolverhampton Wednesday, the third team in the group join the battle.
Wolverhampton Wednesday has a record in this event that would instil fear in
any team. Wolverhampton Wednesday has a reputation that would make you pray
that you don’t have them in your group because history will tell you
that they will win the group. This year I can’t see that changing. For
the sake of the other two team I hope it does but don’t hold your breath.
If the group above seems a little one side the same can not be said of this
group in this group we have three strong teams. Warwickshire’s Rugby
A take on Leicestershire’s Leicester City in match one. I can’t
make my mind up as to which of these two teams will win. But going on the
basis that Rugby has got further in more events than their opponents I guess
my vote would go to them. This means that Leicester City would face Thurrock
(Kent) in the second match.
It’s no easier to pick a winner in this one either but given that Leicester
City will have the advantage of playing a match I think they will win. This
in turn will mean Thurrock will play Rugby with all three team having a chance.
Leicester’s hopes will be pinned on a Thurrock win. Whilst Rugby will
need to win to go through to the next round. As for Thurrock, they will need
to beat Rugby by one more frame than they lost to Leicester to go through.
Another interesting group with no clear winner is the one with Lowestoft 'A'
(Suffolk), Luton (Bedfordshire) and Sheppey ‘C’ from Kent. Sheppey
C does not usually get beyond the group stage so that leaves Lowestoft and
Luton to battle it out. Normally I would plumb for Lowestoft because of the
players they have but this time I just have a feeling for Luton.
This table will be a noisy table as the St Albans Saints from Hertfordshire
make their debut in the event and one of their members is very vocal in his
support of his team. It’s up to East Yorkshire’s North Wolds
to silence them. Although North Wolds is a new name to the Interleague their
players aren’t they are better known as Driffield. Whatever happens
in this match the winner will get to watch one of the Interleague’s
most experienced teams Lye & Stourbridge from the West Midlands. take
on the losers. I have to say I think it will be St Albans and I feel that
they will lose out to the experience of Lye & Stourbridge. That will
mean that Lye & Stourbridge will take on North Wolds for a place in the
last 32. I think that North Wolds will be the winner in this group but Lye & Stourbridge
are a very capable side.
This group could well end up being another one to watch as Conwall’s
Bude take on Shropshire’s A1 Telecom. Bude have Tony Holgate as their
blunderbuss whilst A1 Telecom won’t be rattled by taking on Bude because
they have taken on and beat similar sides on a number of occasions and are
regular visitors to the last sixteen. Essex’s Harlow on the other hand
will be shaking in their boots when they see the fire power of the other two
teams. Harlow have been to the finals before but gone out in the group stages
so it’s difficult to anything else happening here this time round.
Barking Phoenix (Essex) re-enter the fold after giving it a miss last April
and now that Barking Elite is no longer they have signed a few of their players.
So they will be keen to do well with their strengthened squad. They will
need all their new found strength if they are to take out P.J.'s Stourbridge
(West Midlands) who are probably the best team in their county, Come to think
of it they are also one of the best in the country, that said Phoenix will
still believe they can do it. The third team in the group Gravesham ‘A’ (Kent)
will struggle to keep pace with the other two but to their advantage is the
fact that they can see what’s needed before they play. I will still
fancy P.J.'s Stourbridge to qualify though.
This group contains two new teams to the Interleague Milton Keynes ‘B’ (Buckinghamshire)
are truly new to the event. Cambridge on the other hand is a name that has
become well known in the event but over the past few years has been missing
from the event. Also in the group are City of Leicester (Leicestershire). Of
the three teams in the group Cambridge is the most likely to emerge as winners
simply because of the players they have at their disposal. I wouldn’t
write off City Of Leicester though. Milton Keynes only benefit will probably
be to gain valuable experience for their next trip. There aren’t too
many teams that come here and do well first time round.
If the group above has two new boys this group is completely the opposite it
contains three teams with a long history in the event. First up Bedford ‘A’ (Bedfordshire)
will take on Dermot Lally’s Kettering (Northamptonshire). This should
be a cracker if the two teams play to their full potential, if that happens
Kettering will win but only just. Then Dawley ‘B’ (Shropshire)
joins in the battle and if my prediction is correct will play Bedford ‘A’.
that too will be a good one to watch with Bedford running out marginal winners.
I then fancy Dawley ‘A’ to turn over Kettering setting up a situation
where the winning team will qualify on frames won.
Nuneaton (Warwickshire) is another team with a long history in this event and
is probably the favourite to go through in this group. They take on Braintree
(Essex) in their first match. And as always this is the one that set up the
group if Nuneaton win then they will win the group. Assuming that does happen
then Braintree will take on Wolverhampton Super (West Midlands) in the second
match of the group. I can’t see a clear winner here but I favour Wolverhampton
Super on the basis that they have a more experience than Braintree. This
of course means the Wolverhampton Super will have to take on and beat Nuneaton
to go through. It’s hard enough to win as it is without knowing that
that if you lose you are out. For that reason I will go for Nuneaton to qualify.
Here is another grouping with three top teams in it and plenty of experience
in the event. Bedworth (Warwickshire) take on Brierley Hill (West Midlands),
formerly known as P.J’s Birmingham. I can t see Bedworth having enough
fire power to overcome Brierley Hill’s overall strength as a team but
that does not mean that Bedworth can’t win because as with any team
that has good players in it,
if their opponents take their eye off the ball, then they are going to get
hit hard. The third team in the group Weymouth ‘A’ (Dorset) are
in my view the group winners here simply because I believe they have the best
players and that will tell in the end.
Maidstone ‘A’ (Kent) take on Leeds ( West Yorkshire) in the opening
match of this group and this one is going to be close. I also think that the
winner of this match will also end up winning the group because the third team
Newbold (Nottinghamshire) are new to the Interleague so it would be very unfair
to think they will be there for anything more than the experience... I know
it’s a terrible thing to say about a team but everybody has to start
somewhere on their road to greatness.
This group will be hard to predict the winner of because Preston (Lancashire)
are a good side but then so is Maidstone ‘B’ (Kent) neither side
is likely to get beyond the last 16. then we have to add in to the equation
the third team in the group Central Cars (Shropshire) they are in my view
the team most likely to come out of this group, however, both the other two
do have the ability to beat Central so it may well end up being very tight.
And from a competition point of view that how we like it.
The group with Leicester County (Leicestershire), Rochester (Kent) and Penrith
(Cumbria) might seem like there will only be one winner and whilst I do think
Rochester will still come out on top they have lost the services of some
of their former stars. They like Trent Trophies have been lucky enough to
find some top quality replacements making them the elite of Rochester a sort
of Rochester Elite really... I do think that the other two can rattle Rochester’s
cage but not quite enough to shake the door loose though.
Bedford ‘B’ (Bedfordshire) take on Trent Trophies ‘B’ (Staffordshire)
in the opening match of this group and whilst its true that Trent Trophies ‘B’ are
no match for their illustrious A team they are a match for a lot of teams.
Bedford ‘B’ is not in the fore of teams likely to do well in Yarmouth
but they are a steady team. Beverley ‘B’ (East Yorkshire) are better
placed to take out Trent Trophies ‘B’ but if my prediction comes
true then when those two teams meet if will be to decide which of the two will
be progressing and which will be going out on the town.. Under those conditions
I favour Trent Trophies to win.
Normally I would not tip Hertford (Hertfordshire) to win any group they play
in because they tend to play considerably below their ability when they get
here. This time is different. They have some good players and a good skipper
in Gary Keefe. Club 147 (Leicestershire) may have different ideas and they
probably are Hertford’s biggest threat so the opening match will be
a real pressure match. That of course is not meant to belittle Romney Marsh
(Kent) but they do appear to be the weakest of the three teams. So I am sure
they will try twice as hard now just to make me eat my words.
This is one of the groups you pray not to be drawn in but someone has to and
this year it’s Rugby Town (Warwickshire). It’s a thankless task
trying to escape a group when your opening match is against Morley Int (West
Yorkshire). Spare a thought for Alsager (Staffordshire) who have to watch
whilst the first match is played. There is only one winner in this group.
Trent Trophies ‘C’ (Staffordshire) are in my view the best “C” team
in country, in fact they may even be better than their “B” side.
Many teams make the mistake of thinking they can’t be that good they
are only a “C” team. Many teams have found to their horror that
this team has teeth. Sudbury (Suffolk) will give Trent Trophies C a good game
but I feel Trent Trophies ‘C’ will come through. Grove Elite (West
Yorkshire) a bit of an unknown quantity. But they may just be the key to the
group, when it comes to counting frames to see who goes out and who stays in.
Here is another of the groups you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.
I feel sorry for Oldham (G.M.C.) and Friar Tuck (Nottinghamshire) but my money
is firmly on Imperial 1 (London)
If the form book is to be believed then East Herts (Hertfordshire) should come
out on top in this group this conclusion is based on their seemingly endless
ability to get out of the group no matter who else is in the group with them.
Walsall Federation (West Midlands) will be tough opponents but I feel East
Herts will come out on top in the opening encounter. Then the Thursday Club
League (Northamptonshire) will take on Walsall Federation. This will be another
close match with, I believe,
Walsall Federation just running out winners. This in turn will probably give
East Herts the group by default.
This group has three fairly evenly matched teams in it so I have much faith
in my own predictions for this group because all three teams can win the
group. First up will be Lowestoft B (Suffolk) taking on Surrey Warriors (Surrey)
then the losers will take on City of Coventry (Warwickshire).
When push comes to shove though, I will tip Surrey Warriors to take the group.
If this was your first time at this competition the last thing you would want
is to be drawn into group with two teams that between them have a vast amount
of experience in the event. Unfortunately for Buckingham’s Milton Keynes ‘A’ that’s
what has happened. But they do get to see C.O.B.H.P.L. ‘B’ (Sussex)
take on Mick Timmins’ Alloa's (Lancashire) in the opening match of
this group. The Alloa’s say they have a weakened side this time round.
However, their ideas on a weakened side are a lot different to most peoples.
They always do well here and I see no reason to think any different now.
Milton Keynes will have to be on the top of their game if they are to get
anything out of this group. That said I feel the winners of this group will
be the winners of match one and I believe it will be the Alloa’s who
win match one.
In this group I can see Tolworth (Surrey) taking revenge for a string of below
par performances at the Interleague. They used to be a top side but they
have lost the edge recently. So sooner or later they are going to bounce
back their victims may well include Newcastle (Staffordshire) and Didcot
The final group of this year’s National Interleague Knock out Cup contains
Reigate & Redhill (Surrey) who take on Warrington (G.M.C.) and Bicester
(Oxfordshire) of the three teams in this group I feel that Reigate & Redhill
are best placed to win the group.