Trying to emulate the success of last year’s campaign, Westfield’s squad of Jack Coleman, Miles Chan, Sam Wildman and Jimmy Wright travelled to Stoke for the first round of the Junior British League. Placed in the same division as last season, 3A, the challenge seemed feasible even without the talents of Jordan Dainty and Joel Carton.
First up were De Vere Netts, who despite looking quite strong on paper, were missing two of their key players, and Westfield duly took advantage. Coleman dispatched the hard-hitting Scott Dowsett in three close ends, before Miles Chan overcame a shaky start to beat Philip Lawson 11-4 in the fourth end. Wildman secured the draw with a convincing straight set win over Isaac Beevor. With Coleman looking to claim two points for Westfield, a minor shock occurred. Despite, in his own words, having ‘no motivation’, when Lawson succumbed to a fourth end hammering to take the game to a decider, it seemed as though Coleman was in control. But Lawson battled back to win out 11-8, and when Sam Wildman wasted a two-set advantage, things looked slightly worse. Thankfully, Wildman upped his game to beat Dowsett 11-5 in the 5th, and victory was further confirmed when Chan beat Beevor in four ends.
Next, Westfield faced old foes Cliffedale Chandlers, with Michael Bates as their number one. Bates reaffirmed his status as one of the highest ranked players in the division with an easy win over Wildman, before Chan scraped past James O’Neil in four tight ends. Jimmy Wright opened his British League account in fine fashion with a hard-fought win over Peter Claxton, resulting in a smile nearly as wide as his body! Bates made the score 2-2 with a close win over Chan, before Wildman secured a point with an unconvincing four-game win over Claxton. With points at stake, it was time for the old grudge match: Wright versus O’Neil. Having faced and spited each other for about four years, Wright seemed to have the bragging rights when he cruised to a two set lead, before O’Neil started to play. But right when it was needed, Wright won in both the match play and vocal accolades to maintain Westfield’s 100% start.
Facing more difficult opponents, this 100% start was soon lost. Westfield succumbed to a 4-2 defeat against the highly-regarded York Gardens, although the score could so easily have been reversed. After being pegged back to 2-2 by the agile Tiago Branco, Coleman scraped home 12-10 to give Westfield the initiative. But soon the London side went ahead after lacklustre performances from Chan and Wright, going down to Alois Clair and Aaron Smith respectively. Things appeared to be spiralling out of control when Clair took a two-game lead over Coleman, before the latter upped his game decisively to win out 11-7, 11-8, 11-6. With the scores level, Wright came so, so close to securing a point, but after a dogged fightback lost 11-9 in the 5th to Branco. And with the pressure on Chan to beat Smith, it showed with the all-round display of the Londoner seeing out a classy four-end victory.
After a night of excessive food, Westfield didn’t exactly continue their good form from the previous day. Up against a strong Horsham side, Coleman, as he so often does, got them off to a flying start with a magnificent five-set win over Daniel Fielding, although it wasn’t long before the scores were level as Tejas Padalkar scraped past Wildman in four, who didn’t quite get the luck he wanted at several points during the match. Then Wright, up against the forehand-orientated Daniel Barna, lost a fascinating game 13-15, 7-11, 11-7, 12-10, 9-11, ruing the poor start he got off to in the fifth game after hitting some brutal winners. Jack Coleman then equalised with a convincing straight set win over Padalkar, before Wright blew a two-game lead over Fielding, losing 11-7 in the 5th. Then, with points at stake, it looked like being 3-3 as Wildman cruised into a 2-0 lead. But Barna changed his tactics effectively, with Wildman needing until the 5th end to impose his style again. A dramatic end saw both players on top of their game, but Barna’s consistent accuracy eventually won the game, and the match, for Horsham.
Needing a win to keep alive their hopes of a promotion push, Westfield took on AquaServ Club Mid-Cheshire. Coleman saw off Steve Nicholls 3-1, before Chan failed to get past a vastly improved Chris Hatton, losing 3-1 despite a strong performance. Wildman regained Westfield’s lead with a comfortable win over Chris Pattison, a match that Ian Yarnall described as ‘most boring match of the year’- not sure whether it had anything to do with the longest rally being four shots!! Coleman then beat Hatton 3-1, showing a brilliant display of attack from both wings, before Chan wrapped things up with a controlling victory over Pattison. With the points in the bag, Wildman was unfortunate in a 3-1 defeat to Hatton, but it didn’t matter; Westfield are still in the running for the title.