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INTERLEAGUE KNOCKOUT CUP 2004
Overview

Well it's out now, and that's official, the draw for this year's Knock Out Cup was released to the public domain on the 23rd Sept.

Looking at the draw as a whole there are few groups that stand out as a group of death. However, that means that groups will be much harder to predict because the teams are more evenly spread than in previous years.

In terms of big, juicy mouth watering ties is looks a bad draw with no group having two massive teams in it that you can pontificate about the match being a clash of the giants. The net effect of that is that the draw is much stronger than is normally the case. With very few big teams drawn together to knock each other out the groups are much stronger with a big team in most of the groups.

That means that even more so than usual there will be no "gimmies " in any of the groups.The teams that do eventually make to the last 32 will have been pushed all the way and made to work much harder they would have liked for a group match.

Whilst the above is a generalised overview of the groups as a whole when you look at the groups in more detail it is clear that there are some great battles ahead and chances for teams to make a name for themselves.

Where better to start what now seems to have become a tradition. My thoughts of all the groups and all the matches that will make up the group stage of the event.

Table 1

Imperial, so majestic last year, start their defence of their title on the traditional table for the reining champions.

Imperial will take on the Worcester Dream team in the group opener. And if there is one thing Worcester don't want to be doing is dreaming of a group win over Imperial. They are going to have to fight for each frame. Imperial's line up consists of players like England international Andy Breen and ex Tour player John Wylie. Add to that seasoned players like Ben Clements, J.J. Faul and John Traini and it's not difficult to see why Imperial performed last year. They will be without the services of John Sullivan who is no longer in the team.

For Worcester Dream Team it's their first appearance at the finals so they are very much the underdogs in this match. That said they do have some handy players in their line up. It won't be as easy as it might seem at first. However when you look at it objectively there is only one winner in this match and it won't be Worcester Dream Team. Their "win" will come in the knowledge that they gave Imperial a much harder game than first timers have any right to expect.

This will mean that Worcester Dream team will then take on Leicester Lions. I think that the Dream Team will still be on cloud nine from their performance in match one. The opening few frames will be paramount to how well Leicester Lions do. If Worcester opens up a lead then the lions won't be roaring in this match. If Leicester can keep pace with the Dream Team then it will be tight but my feelings are that Worcester will win which will in effect decide the group with Imperial winning it, Worcester Dream Team in second spot with the Lions bringing up the rear.

Table 2

Sees a former finalist the All'oas from Lancashire take on Nottingham's Gainsborough. Under normal circumstances I would say that the All'oas would come through this match without breaking sweat, however, in recent Interleague events they have rattled a few feathers. Add to that the boys from Lancashire are not always at their best at that time in the morning. Gainsborough on the other hand will be acutely aware of the quality they will be taking on and will not roll over and play dead. Another factor the All'oas will have to deal with is having Karl Boyes and Lee Clough on international duty on the Friday night .

Gainsborough, like the Worcester Dream Team should have what it takes to give the All'oas a bloody nose, but with the class of players available for big Kevin O'Halloran to pick from, I can't see Gainsborough having enough fire power to deliver the knock out blow and will eventually go down but they will have fought all the way.

This will set up an interesting tussle between Gainsborough and Beverley A from East Yorkshire. Beverly A are well overdue a good win in this event that coupled with Gainsborough's low at being so close to taking out the All'oas could provide the springboard that Beverly need to produce the goods which I think they will.

That will mean a straight race to ten for the All'oas and Beverley. By the time this match comes around the All'oas will be wide awake and ready for battle. That will be very bad news for Beverly because All'oas manager Mick Timmins along with big Kev will have bawled his team out for their lacklustre performance in their opening match and told them in no uncertain terms what playing for the All'oas means and what is expected. Being a big team, the All'oas are, means you have gears and they will use them to cruise past Beverly A and book themselves in to the last 32.

Beverly will have to wait another year for their chance at having a winning run in the event. Gainsborough will be cursing their luck at not being able to get past the All'oas and thereby getting a go at Beverley A when they were on a high.

Table 3

This group has the mighty Triangle led by skipper Ralph Winfield. Triangle is one of those teams that other Interleague captains just wish they could be captain of, even for just one day, what would you do with a team that includes the current World Eight ball Pool federation world Champion, Mick Hill, the runner up in this year's World Championships Darren Appleton. And just for good measure a former youth and two time world champion Chris Melling. I know what I'd do, I'd drop them all and play myself just because I could. I doubt that Ralph will take that option though when his team line up against Interleague new boys from Derbyshire Long Eaton. It's not the best of draws you could have as first timers. Every draw is cruel to some and kind to others and I'll let you work out how that works in this instance.

That maybe unfair on Long Eaton since I don't really know who is in their team all I do know is that many teams have tried I the past to beat Triangle or Morley International as they used to be, only the very best have managed it. The vast majority who have tried have failed.

The third team in the group, East Yorkshire's North Wolds is a much more even match for Long Eaton. Adrian Walton's north Wolds team have been here many times before so they know what it's all about. That experience I feel will be enough to see them past Long Eaton.

Table 4

This table again seems on the face of it little one sided, Leicester, Interleague finalists take on Dave Preece's Brierley Hill (West Midlands) who usually make it out of the group phase themselves. On the face of it Leicester with Steve Robertshaw and Mark Selby in their line up should make short work of Brierley Hill. However, Leicester has, in the past come in with some ropey performances in the group stage in the past. If they chose to do that against Brierley Hill then they will live probably regret it. Whilst Leicester would start as favourites it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Brierley Hill could ruffle a few of Leicester's feathers.

With all the experience that Leicester have they will be well aware of how dangerous can be and I think that Leicester will not let their guard down so it's Leicester for me. What that means is that when Brierly Hill takes on Preston (Lancashire) they will be fighting for their survival in the event. Preston have over the past few interleague events have made considerable progress since their sometimes rough and ready style that marked their early appearances. Skipper, Gareth Hibbot as moulded his team into a fit fighting unit.

I feel this improvement in overall attitude will be enough to see them past Brierley Hill who will still be smarting at losing to Leicester and set up a group decider between Leicester and Preston. Knowing that both teams are playing for a place in the last 32 will make this a very close mach as both teams have class players but when the crunch comes at the back end of the tie I feel the greater fire power of Leicester will be the deciding factor that allows them to just edge out Preston.

Table 5

Again, just like the above group it contains one of the Interleague's finest teams Nottinghamshire's Sun Valley in action against new comers Netherthorpe (East Yorkshire).I don't know too much about the overall strength of Netherthorpe as a team but I am very well aware of how strong Sun valley are. Sun Valley can call on England internationals Bayden Jackson & Clint I'Anson as well as a vast array of seasoned Interleague players. Sun Valley are one of those teams who very rarely make mistakes. Netherthorpe will not find it easy to penetrate the collective armour of Sun Valley and it will be a real uphill struggle for them. Sun valley will see it as just another obstacle in their path to a last 32 place to be dealt with just like all the other teams they have despatched over the years.

London's chalk farm complete the group and if my prediction is correct then they will be playing Netherthorpe in the second match. Chalk farm has some useful players in their line up like Matt Francois & Frankie Gillen and providing skipper Caesar Contri picks his team well I think that Chalk farm will win this match but it will go all the way.

This will set up a Sun Valley and Chalk Farm head to head for the group and as much as I would like to think Chalk farm could topple the mighty Sun valley I can't see it happening so it's Sun valley for me.

Table 6

Yet again, this group contains one of the all time big boys in the group, this time its Shropshire's Dawley A. their first match is against Holderness (East Yorkshire). Dawley really should have too much fire power for Holderness with the combined assets of the Blagborough clan to call on. Holderness will need to produce their "A" if they are going to get anything out of this fixture.

Weir inns (London) complete this group and it's their first time here as a unit so they should be playing Holderness in the second match but that's about as much as I see them doing. Holderness having lost to Dawley will be in no mood to lose again so Weir inns will be made to pay the price. In one of those weird twists of fate Holderness will need Weir Inns to beat Dawley to stand any chance of going through them selves. HOWEVER I see Dawley coming through this group with two straight wins.

Table 7

This group starts with an interesting match between Maidstone A (Kent) and Clacton (Essex) whilst it's fair to say there are no big names in either team both have their steady players. Clacton have not been here to often before whilst Maidstone have been. In some of their previous visits they have given some of the bigger teams a run for their money. For this reason I will give the Kent boys the benefit of any doubt and say that they will be the victors.

Clacton will then be faced with the unenviable task of keeping their hopes alive by beating the third team in the group Ollerton (Nottinghamshire) Ollerton are another of the Interleague's finest teams with a vast history in the event most of it illustrious, for Clacton to get a result against a team with this much class is just not likely to happen. By the time this match is over Clacton will be out.

I am afraid that I see the group decider between Maidstone and Ollerton going the same way as the previous match. As much as I would like to see both Clacton and Maidstone do well the players available to Ollerton know exactly what they need to do and more often than not they do. It

Table 8

Who in their right minds would chose to be in this group sadly, two teams have to join Trent Trophies A in the group and on they didn't get the option to choose. This is where the draw is at its worst. Folkestone and Colchester are good solid teams in their own right but they are not in the same league as the third team in the group Trent Trophies A Staffordshire. Trent are the most successful team we have ever seen in the Interleague last year for the first time in I don't know how many times they failed to make through to the final. It took in form team Imperial to put a stop to their unbelievable run of success. That was not until the semi final though. When you look at their team you can see why they are just about unstoppable it consists of Lee Kendall, Gaz Potts, Carl Morris, Adam Davis, Daz Henshall, Nick Weller, Steve Bridgewood, Darren Lightfoot and Mark Blackshaw. With a line up like that it is difficult to see who can stop them. One thing's for sure it won't be either of the two teams in this group.

The best they can hope for is to take as many frames as they can and the knowledge that they have the sympathy of every other team in the event.

Table 9

As I 'm writing this It's beginning to look like all the groups so far have one team that is the runaway favourite and two others, unfortunately, this group does not change that feeling. Peterborough (Cambridgeshire) take on Penrith (Cumbria) in the opening match and that will be interesting because I feel both team are fairly evenly matched so this one is difficult to pick a winner. Both teams has been here a few times so they know the ropes but of the two teams, historically speaking, Peterborough have the better record so I will take them as the winners of match one. Enter P.J.'s Stourbridge (West Midlands) last year's finalists.

This will be Penrith's last hope of progressing any further in this year's event. Unfortunately for Penrith P.J.'s Stourbridge their nest opponents will be thinking more about going one better than they did last year and Penrith will be in the way of that goal. When you consider that in the P.J.'s Stourbridge line up will be players of the calibre of Skipper Paul Dunkey, Rob Chilton, Neil Raybone, Pat Ward, Jarod Griffiths, Jamie Wylde, Ben Swinnerton and Richie Foxall. It's not too difficult to see why I feel that that there is only one winner in this group. I will be very surprised indeed if P.J.'s Stourbridge don't win this group at a canter.

Table 10

This is a grouping that is close to my heart because it welcomes back to the fold a team that is as much a part of the Interleague as a Yarmouth table. The opening match in this group sees Barking elite (Essex) rejoin the Interleague. The sad part is that it is not the full strength Barking Elite of old but it has got a few of the original players back together again. Even a weakened Barking Elite is a dangerous animal if you fail to respect it. Their opponents South Yorkshire's Barnsley are not a new team to the event and probably have a good idea of the respect that Barking Elite has in the Interleague. They will have to fight hard but I feel they will have the beating of Elite.

That means Doreen Rorie's Mosconi's Leisure will take on Barking Elite in match two. I do not know the full strength of Mosconi Leisure but I have a feeling that Barking Elite will be too strong for the East Yorkshire team. That in turn means that Barnsley will only have to avoid defeat against Mosconi's Leisure to qualify for the last 32. If they are good enough to beat Barking Elite they ought to be able to at least draw with Mosconi's Leisure.

Table 11

Friar Tuck (Nottinghamshire) and Wigan (Lancashire) kick of this group with both these teams having plenty of experience in the event it should be a close run thing. Wigan of the two teams Wigan has a better record of progress. Wigan have some quality players In their line up players like Geoff Harrison and Ian Davenport. Friar tuck might not have the playing kudos of Wigan but they are more than capable of beating them. Whether they do or not will be down to the team as a whole performing to their potential. If not then the class of Wigan will take over.

St Neots (Cambridgeshire) will be waiting to take on the losing team, which I suspect will be Friar Tuck, St Neots will no doubt use the first match to suss out the opposition and if they have done their homework properly they will be more than ready for Friar Tuck.

The St Neots v Friar Tuck will be a battle royal with Friar Tuck fighting to say in the competition and St Neots trying to better Wigan's winning score so that they will take the advantage in to their match. I think that friar Tuck will have just enough to get the better of St Neots and by default hand the group to Wigan by beating them.

Table 12

This table is a real table that is up for grabs for all three teams so both Gravesham A (Kent) and Hyndburn (Lancashire) will be hoping for a good start so that they can gain an advantage for their second match but only one team can have a good start so I think that both these teams will cancel out each other's best efforts and this match will be a draw.

That will give Harlow (Essex) a golden opportunity to stake a claim for the group winner spot. Which ever of the two teams they eventually play. They will have to get over their susceptibility to slow starts. Every time I have seen them they have lost the first few frames and then spent the rest of the match trying to catch up. They are a team that finishes strong so that if they do get of to a reasonable start I feel they will win their opening match.

That in turn will mean that Harlow will be in pole position to win the group bur with it all in the melting pot I feel that the extra experience of Hyndburn will be enough to put the Lancashire team through even if it needs a count back to sort out the group winner.

Table 13

This is another group that is about as open as a group can be and the opener may well decide the whole group if either Ely (Cambridgeshire) or Leeds (West Yorkshire) get a big win it mean the end for the other two teams because this group will be so tight. Ely have Dale Parson & Iain Aldous who play on the tour as well as Richard Nixon so they have some class in their line up. Leeds may not have tour players in their line up but they are a good all round team so Ely won't have an easy time. That said I do feel Ely will just have the beating of Leeds.

Leeds will then take on Sheppey (Kent) who a few years back were on their way to being a quality side. That growth has not continued but they still have players in the team who can do the business on the table. I feel however that Leeds will just have enough in their tanks to get past Sheppey.

That means as is so often the case Leeds will be relying on the team they have just beaten to beat Ely. What usually happens in these matches is that the third team has no real hope of qualifying and play that way. That in turn means that Ely will reap the reward for winning top oh so important first match. It doesn't always happen that way but more often than not it does.

Table 14

Sees St Albans Saints (Hertfordshire) take on Dawley B (Shropshire), which on the face of it would seem very close. St Albans Saints contain a few of Hertfordshire's county B team and Dawley for their part have had the benefit of watching their A team so they should know what to do. The general young age of St Albans Saints against the experience of the Dawley team should be enough to give Dawley the win. That said, St Albans saints have a number of players who can dish if they get the chance. That ability within the St Albans to break dish might override their inexperience.

The third team in the group Elland (West Yorkshire) are better known for dressing up in silly hats and things than they are for qualifying from the group they are in. Although they prefer to enjoy the event rather than the serious side of the weekend first. That does not mean they don't have a serious side so and they will want to win but I think St Albans saints will win this one. But not the group, that will be Dawley B.

Table 15

Wolverhampton Wednesday (West Midlands) are not the team they once were but they are still a very strong outfit. There first match will be against Lowestoft B (Suffolk). Lowestoft have a wealth of experience but I think that Wolverhampton Wednesday with the players they still have will be too strong for Lowestoft B.

After being beaten by Wolverhampton Wednesday poor old Lowestoft will have to face Barnsley (South Yorkshire) who boast in their line up tour player Karl Milner as well as Nick wollerton. I see Lowestoft getting much the same treatment as they got from Wolverhampton Wednesday and I think their Interleague will end before it got going.

This will leave Wolverhampton Wednesday and Barnsley to slug it out. This will be a great match to watch as neither team will be giving anything away. The strength of both these teams makes it hard to predict who will win but I will go for Wolverhampton Wednesday mainly because they have done it so many times before that it is hard to bet against them.

Table 16

The opening match in this group pits Chesterfield (Nottinghamshire) take Suffolk's finest Ipswich. Chesterfield has a good track record in the event whilst Ipswich has the players but not the track record. Ipswich if they get a start they will be hard to pin down whereas with Chesterfield they will work at it until they get the result. All in all I think that with the Alan Mower, the Keeble brothers and Phil Cullingford's recent form they will just have enough to win the first match.

That would put Chesterfield in against Thursday Club League (Northamptonshire) chesterfield should be able to keep their hopes alive with a win over Thursday Club League but that will mean that Thursday Club League will have to beat Ipswich with a big enough score to put themselves through over the other two but I just cant see them having the fire power needed to achieve it so it's Ipswich to win the group for me.

Table 17

This group is going to be a tough one because I think the teams are fairly even and this group is my choice for a classic three times 9-9 matches. However if that does not happen then I think that the Andover Swallows (Hampshire) will just edge out Bicester A (Oxfordshire) by the odd fame. Then Bicester will be taking on Ipswich B (Suffolk).

Ipswich B don't have the same standard of player that the A team can call on but they are still useful so Bicester will have to be careful if they are not going to lose both their matches and retire to the bar. Assuming that things go the way I have predicted the group will be between Andover Swallows and Ipswich B. again I am not really to sure which of these teams will come through but if I had to go for one then it would have to be Andover Swallows but it will only be by the odd frame.

Table 18

Suffolk Divas (Suffolk) start their warm up for the ladies Interleague next month by taking part in the men's event. They will be one of the fancied teams in the ladies event and what that means to their first opponents Alsager (Staffordshire) had better not make the mistake that a lot of men's teams do. If they do then they will get a rude awakening.

Alsager have been here a few times so they should know that if you don't treat teams at this level with the utmost respect you pay the price. That fact alone should be enough for Alsager to win the match based on the fact that they are, in my view, the stronger team overall.

Milton Keynes A (Buckinghamshire) are probably the strongest team in this set of three but that is no guarantee that you will win. When the Suffolk divas play Milton Keynes the boys from Bucks will have had the opportunity to "suss out" the opposition. Skipper Adam Marlow will use his team to make sure they win the match.

That will set up a head to head with Alsager and although I believe that Milton Keynes will in the end be too good for Alsager it will only be at the back end of the match that Milton Keynes start to stamp their authority on the match. When they do that they will book their place in the last 32.

Table 19

This group is about as close as the draw has come so far to producing a "clash of titans" Weston (Somerset) are team with real pedigree as are their opponents in the opening match in this group Lye & Stourbridge (West Midlands) of the two Lye & Stourbridge have a better record in the event but Weston are a very good team so this should be a belter to watch. This should be a tight match right through to the end but in the end I think that Lye & Stourbridge will just have the heavier artillery.

Village Pool League (Northamptonshire) will then be taking on Weston with all due respect to Village Pool League, Weston should be a bit to hot for them to handle which will mean in turn that Village Pool League will have to beat Lye & Stourbridge in order to make progress. That however, I feel will be a bridge too far for Village Pool League to cross so it Lye & Stourbridge to win the group for me.

Table 20

Sees the introduction to the Interleague of Wolverhampton Wednesday B (West Midlands) as far as I know there has never been a B Wolverhampton Wednesday team. However, their captain Fred Bannister is no stranger to the event. Their first task if they are to emulate their illustrious "A" string will be to take out Gosport (Hampshire) That won't be too easy as I think Gosport will prove to be worthy opponents and will in the end manage to beat Wolverhampton Wednesday B.

At this point enter Bedford A (Bedfordshire) who are a team that likes to get out of the group and of the three teams in this group are the most likely to emerge from it as the winners. Wolverhampton Wednesday will give Bedford a good game but I feel they do not have sufficient strength in depth to overcome a good Bedford A side.

Bedford will also have to dispose of Gosport if they are to win the group but I don't think they will go that fortunately for Bedford if they do beat Wolverhampton Wednesday a draw will be good enough for Bedford.

Table 21

Just a few tables away from their "A" team Milton Keynes "B" open their account with a tough match against Shrewsbury (Shropshire). The team had a fair amount of success when they were called A1 Telecom and I feel they will have too much for Milton Keynes B to cope with. It won't be walk over but neither do I think Shrewsbury will be threatened.

Milton Keynes chance to shine will come when they take Grove Elite (West Yorkshire). These two teams will be a much more equal match in terms of ability and I see it going to a 9-9 draw which will mean Shrewsbury wi9ll have another relatively easy match against Grove Elite. Not because Grove Elite will be push overs, they won't be, it will be because the foundation for reaching the last 32 was laid down in their first match for Shrewsbury.

Table 22

This group, to be honest, is another of those groups where you think who shall I go for because there is no team that looks like it will dominate the other two.

Witney (Oxfordshire) have been here so often now that they are part of the furniture at Yarmouth but they never quite seem to be able to make the leap out of the group stage & into the knock out stage. Dorchester (Dorset) Witney's opening opponents are a team I am not really familiar with. But in terms of the Interleague this is probably a bit of a local derby. When all is said and done Witney should have enough to see of the challenge of Dorchester. That will mean that Luton (Bedfordshire) will be playing Dorchester and I feel that Luton will be too strong for Dorchester when the going gets tough and mistakes are punished. That will mean to reasonably strong teams who have under achieved over the years will face each other for a place in the last 32. of the two I think that Luton will be the more committed. Witney may well feel that if they win it might interfere with their quality time at the bar.

Table 23

This grouping seems an easier forecast because it has a proven winner in the shape of Godalming A (Surrey) over the past few events they have become a fighting unit and has the ability within the team to knuckle down and produce the result when it is required without going in with all guns blazing. Their first opponents Wantage (Oxfordshire) may well decide to join their Witney mates at the bar after the first match. Not that I think that they are going to get trounced but I think it will be a comprehensive enough win to knock the stuffing out of Wantage.

Wantage will take revenge out on City of Leicester (Leicestershire) who are another of those teams that have been here a few times and should really do better than they tend to do. I can't see that rend ending here either I just think that Wantage will have too much to prove to let City of Leicester get away with a win. So like so many other matches the opening match for you team is so important that to lose it almost condemns you to death before you start the second match. So that despite Wantage going on to beat City of Leicester it will still be Godalming that take the group.

Table 24

Northants County (Northamptonshire) versus East Herts II (Hertfordshire) formally known as Hertford will be a tough match for both teams both teams have been here a few times now and both have fallen over at the last hurdle to getting through the group stage that neither team will too much faith that this will be their time. Considering they seems to make it through to all the Interleague finals shows they have good teams but once they are here they don't seem to perform to their ability. I am going to go for East Herts II to win the opening match.

Leaving Northants County to face Surrey Warriors (Surrey) who, on form alone are in my view, clear favourites to win the group. They will lay the foundations for that win against Northants County by beating them fairly convincingly. Then the tough work starts when they take on East Herts II. East Herts II are a team that has the power to take out Surrey Warriors if they perform to their ability but their record in the event leaves a big question mark.

I think the destiny of both teams will hinge on who settles first the one that does that will win the match. Both of these teams have in the past beaten better teams than they swill be facing here but each match has a different ethos but I think Surrey Warriors will have just enough to get past East Herts and get themselves into the last 32.

Table 25

This should be a very interesting group to be part of with Reigate A (Surrey) taking on Afford A (Staffordshire) in the opening match which will be tight but I think that Reigate A should have the class to get the better of Afford A but waiting in the wings for the loser of the opening match will be Kettering (Northamptonshire) working out who will win this group is probably the hardest group of the lot because they are all very good teams and all three are capable of winning this group. Unusually the outcome of this group will probably depend on the result of the second match because if Afford win it will make things very tough for Kettering but if they win then the head to head between Kettering and Reigate A will be a hum-dinger. My personal feeling is that Kettering are the more likely to win so I will go for them to beat Afford. On the back of the win and with players like Bob Love, Graham Berrutto to put Kettering back on course if things if this start to drift its hard to bet against Kettering.

Table 26

Sees another strong grouping with Littlehampton (Sussex) having a real tough opener against Rugby (Warwickshire) both these teams have a long and successful record in the Interleague so it will be a real downer for the losing team because they will both expect to beat the other. Whoever does lose and my feeling is for Rugby but it is a close call. Even tougher opposition awaits the in the shape of Trent Trophies B (Staffordshire)

Trent Trophies have done really well in the past couple of events and will be keen to keep it going but Rugby will be keen to recover from losing to Littlehampton but I can't see any joy for Rugby in this match either.

That in turn will set up a real crunch match between Littlehampton and Trent Trophies B and like so many of the matches in the group section, this will be just so tight with neither team giving an inch to the other but someone has to win and I think this time it will be Littlehampton mainly because they have ***************in their line up.

Table 27

Worcester Hotshots (Worcestershire) take on C.O.B.H.P.L. B (Sussex) for the right not to be the first to have to play the third team in the group Mexborough (South Yorkshire) I remember in April saying that I thought that Mexborough would beat Trent Trophies A but they got trounced. This time round their group does not contain Trent Trophies A so I can see no further than Mexborough to win this group at a canter with Worcester Hotshots to finish second.

Table 28

This is another of the groups with two top quality teams and one strong one Coventry A (Warwickshire will take on Walsall Select (West Midlands) in most other groups Walsall would be the fancied teams but I'm afraid they will have a real tough job to hang on Coventry's coat tails. Fortunately for Walsall their overall strength should be enough to stave of a mauling but I think Coventry will win with comparative ease.

When Rochester (Kent) take on Walsall they too should have the beating of Walsall. It's unfortunate that Walsall got drawn into this group because they are a better team than the results from this group will show but somebody had to drawn into this group.

If Walsall will curse their luck then Rochester will wonder what they have done to upset lady luck. They have been having a torrid time of late in the Interleague, they keep shooting themselves in the foot. It is a testament to the sheer quality in the team that despite doing, by their standards, nothing for the past few events, crashing out much earlier than they would have expected.

The last thing they would have needed is a tough group section but that is exactly what the draw has handed out. The match between Coventry A & Rochester who are both top 16 teams in the Interleague ranking list.

This will be a real crunch tie for both teams the quality in the Rochester line up is enough to the living daylights out of any team but when you look at the record books you wonder which of the Rochester teams will turn up for the event, if it's the one that believes in it's own ability then Rochester will win comfortably, if it's the other one then I think Coventry A will send them crashing out of the event in the group stage for the third time in four events. However, I am going to go for the real Rochester to turn up and beat Coventry A

Table 29

Sees one of the stars of the Interleague show East Herts, take on Canterbury (Kent) in the opening group match. East Herts are a team that has almost forgotten what it's like to lose in the group stage. With the team getting stronger each year this team should have enough to get past both these teams but it won't be without it's worrying moments.

Canterbury will be well aware of how good East Herts are because they were here last year and saw them reach the semi final. For that reason Canterbury will call on their experience to stop the Hertfordshire team from having it all their own way. I still feel that despite Canterbury's best efforts East Herts will still run out narrow winners.

Ilkeston (Derbyshire) here for the first time will not have heard of East Herts or Canterbury so they will approach the match knowing that they are a good team. I can see this match going one of two ways and it will depend on how well Ilkeston start. If they get a few frames over Canterbury in the early stage then they will go on and win the match. If Canterbury get the better start then they will win the match. I think the match will go to Ilkeston because of their freshness.

This will mean Ilkeston will the face East Herts for the group. This is where East Herts Players will have to show their class. Class is definitely in the team it has 2 professionals in Neil Toms & Tony Vickers, one England International in Rob Southey, ex England Youth player Danny Miller plus three players on the IPA tour and "new boy" Neville Glover. With that kind of fire power to pick from it is easy to see why they consistently make to the business end of events. I think Ilkeston will give the "old Guard" a real shock but will just run out of steam towards the end where you need it most of all. Ilkeston will have to wait for a better opportunity to shine.

Table 30

Wareham (Dorset) take on Leicester County (Leicestershire) and I would have thought that Wareham would have what it takes to keep Leicester County at arms length which will mean that Leicester County have to go from the frying pan straight in to the fire as they take on Imperial 2 (London)

They might be Imperial 2 but that does not mean they are second class and with players like Pat O'Kane & Rob Mckay in the line they are a team not to take lightly. As I said I can't see Leicester County offering too much resistance. Although Neil Bassford, Leicester County's skipper may not agree.

I can see a real tight match between Wareham & Imperial 2. Alan Sager has a good team but I think that Imperial will be a little too strong for them when it comes to the nitty gritty

Table 31

Coalville (Leicestershire) will take on Nuneaton (Warwickshire) in the opening match of this group both these teams should be fairly evenly matched and I would expect this match to be won by no more than a couple of frames either way. Considering that I think the teams are close it's difficult to actually chose who will win but I will go for Nuneaton simply because they have Matt Cooke in their team and any team with players like that in their team must be useful.

Tolworth's (Surrey) chances in this group depend on the players available to Paul Brooks on paper he has players like Tour player Jason Norris and Yarmouth veterans like Cliff Eastwood, Paul Wildman, Andy Sutherland and Frank Strivens if they are all available and play well then my money would go on them

Table 32

Sees Brighton A (C.O.B.H.P.L. A ) (Sussex) take on City of Coventry (Warwickshire) Brighton have an impressive array of big names to choose from players like Pete Ashman, Morray Dolan, Dean Torode, Damian Campsey and Darren Welfare. City of Coventry can't match that line up and as a result will probably struggle as a result but Brighton can be beaten however I don't think it will be Coventry who will do it. Unfortunately I don't think it will be Riddings & District (Nottinghamshire) either.

Tom Fahy
Tournament Director

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