Midweek Handicap League …Westmorland v Southport

Southport Midweek Handicap team felt the high and lows of croquet this week. Travelling to Levens Hall in South Lakes, they had to play a title deciding match against Westmorland; whichever team won the match would win the Midweek League title. Captain Tony Thomas selected the skilful and calm Keith Roberts together with the experience of Eileen Gallagher and John Mawdsley. The high spirits of the Southport squad were reduced when the players warmed up on lawns which suffered from severe flood damage earlier in the year and were now anything but flat, added to the longish nature of the grass and the team knew it was going to be a difficult day. The match involved one Doubles and six Singles games and Tony Thomas surprisingly put Eileen Gallagher and John Mawdsley together to play against a very high handicap Westmorland pairing. The game was closely contested with the lead changing hands frequently, but in the last few turns John Mawdsley set up a winning hoop for his partner who duly obliged to put Southport into the lead. In the two morning Singles games there was also fierce competition; each game going to time. Tony Thomas struggled hard with the lawns all morning, but allowed his opponent a break in the last ten minutes to give Westmorland the equaliser. Meanwhile Keith Roberts, playing the best Westmorland player, started to find some excellent form to create an unbeatable lead near the end and send the teams into lunch with Southport leading 2-1. Whether it was the excellent lunch provided by the Levens Hall Restaurant, the bewitching topiary surroundings, the spectating visitors or Westmorland extracting every advantage from the bumpy lawns, Southport began to struggle in the afternoon sun. Tony Thomas played the Westmorland number one who was now on top form, defeating Thomas in two hours and within thirty minutes the Westmorland number two inflicted a defeat on Keith Roberts. With Southport now losing 3-2 the other Singles games were now critical. Eileen Gallagher was giving no quarter and eventually obtained a find win to level the match at 3-3. But with only one game now in progress the League title would be determined by this one result. In a dour game the Westmorland player was demonstrating a high level of skill in safety first play which John Mawdsley found very frustrating and impossible to ;break down, eventually giving Westmorland a tactical victory. Final score Westmorland 4, Southport 3. The Southport team has played some excellent matches this season and would have been worthy champions; but we now dream of next year.

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