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London C Back to Winning Ways

Inter CountyCaptain Darren 'The Doctor' O'Byrne writes:-

Iím very pleased to say that after enduring some disappointing defeats this season, the ĎCí team got back into winning ways with a decent 27-17 win over Sussex ĎCí. Not that it was at all easy Ė we lost the first four frames, and lost the first session 7-4, but I was delighted with the way the boys got stuck in and once we got into a rhythm, we were pretty impressive. I donít want us getting too carried away Ė Sussex are bottom of the table and this result doesnít match the 31-13 mauling we gave them at home earlier in the season Ė but thereís plenty to suggest that the confidence is coming back, and itís worth mentioning that the Sussex ĎCí skipper, whoís done a good job this season under difficult conditions, praised our performance and said he fielded his strongest team of the season so far.

This was my first match in charge and I want to start by thanking Jeremy for all his hard work over the last few seasons. He has laid the foundations for what I think is the strongest ĎCí team weíve had and I can only hope I do his efforts justice and take us to that next level. Thatís my goal, and if we succeed it will be in no small part down to him. I made a point of informing the players before the match that Iíve always had my own take on captaincy and itís often down to judgement calls rather than hard and fast rules, so Iíd be looking out for who was playing well and who was having a bad day at the office rather than simple wins and losses. Itís all too familiar to play well and lose and harsh to be taken off as a result. Iím also making use of the Ďcaptainís wild cardí system as well as the standard current form system when making my starting selections. Making team selections for the ĎCís is the hardest job there is, because if you are an ĎAí or ĎBí player and you travel away from home and get dropped, youíre almost certainly still going to play four frames, but if you are a ĎCí player that option isnít there for you. I had an amazing sixteen guys turning up on Sunday in Brighton which shows real team spirit and commitment and puts pressure on team selection, which is as it should be. Thereís no way Iíd guarantee everyone a game with those numbers as priority has to go to picking a team I think will win rather than making changes for the sake of rewarding everyone for turning up; sometimes making too many unnecessary changes disrupts the rhythm of a team and I still believe there are guys at the top of this team who would still be stronger favourites to win their last two frames than a substitute even if they lose their first two. I have a Ďgang of fourí in mind and I am pleased to say they repaid my confidence, three of them securing 3 from 4 and the other 2 from 4. My special wild card, ex-ĎAí player Nigel Smith, who I have drafted in for the remainder of the season to lend his experience of county pool to the relatively young team, absolutely led by example, winning 4 from 4. Apologies then if your involvement was not as full-on as you had hoped, but your presence alone is important and in the end I am fairly confident that I made the right decisions.

As I said, the score-line was particularly pleasing given that we went 0-4 down. Four strong players Ė Alex, Graham, Lee and Peter P Ė all fell by the wayside before Mark (top points earner for the ĎCís this season) and Akar got us off the mark. The first session also saw wins for Mikey and Nigel but defeats for William, Patrick and Adam, so we trailed 4-7.

In the second session we started to come back at them but the Sussex boys were pretty resilient and there was very little in it all the way. Unsurprisingly, the first half ended all square, 11-11. Lee, Akar, Mark, Alex, Graham, Nigel and Patrick all pulled out good wins, while Peter P, Adam, Mikey and Will lost. We had a game on our hands with all to play for in the second half!

As promised at the start I made two substitutions, because I really wanted to bring on John Munro and Danny Moffatt. Off went Will and also Adam, having a very uncharacteristically shaky day. This is where we really started to pull away, winning the session 7-4. It started tight and even, Peter P losing, Alex and Graham winning, Lee losing, Mark losing (surprisingly), Akar winning, then Danny and Nigel won to take us two ahead, Mikey lost so they closed the gap to one, but John and Patrick put in sterling performances (OK Paddy, I wonít mention the finale to your classic!) to take us three up for the first time. We were full of confidence at this stage.

I made one last substitution in the final set and took off one Peter for another. The Pan had not enjoyed the best of days although heíd played pretty well for a couple of frames, and the Mac was waiting to come on and strut his stuff. We dominated this final session 9-2. Our three frame lead was extended to five thanks to a sequence of wins for Graham, Lee and Peter Mac. Akarís unbeaten run came to an end and they pulled another back when Danny Ö well, letís just say it wasnít the Mothís best frame! This could have sparked a mini-revival as we only needed one more frame for the draw, two for the win, but fortunately Alex put paid to their faint hopes, then Mark and John won within seconds of one another Ė Mark just potted his black first to secure the win, and Patrick, Nigel and Mikey took us home to 27-17.

Observation of the day? One thing that struck me was the amount of times our boys played well up to and including the last colour and then snookered ourselves on the black. This happened five or six times and although we won some of those, some we lost, and frames like that can really break a playerís heart. Stand up if you are reading this and it happened to you! Itís always hard to judge the pace of an unfamiliar table, but I fear all too often running out of position on the black is down to a tightening up of the arm, so if it happened to you, loosen up a bit, because thereís nothing worse than having a game all but won and then having it snatched from you because of your own mistake.

Players and performances of the day? Nigelís 4 from 4 topped the performances, obviously (and getting position on the black was NOT something Nigel had to worry about!). Mark was rock solid, the most impressive player when in the balls, and got 3 from 4. Akar was really punching high, winning his first 3 and unlucky not to complete the set. Alex and Graham both did amazingly well to recover from the disappointment of losing their openers to waltz through their remaining 3 frames each (Iím not sure if waltz is the right word for either Alex or Graham Ö) Patrick got 3 from 4 as well, thanks to pulling the odd scrappy frame out of the bag but also some decent play in the balls, Lee got a solid 2 from 4, while vice-captain Mikey was a disappointing (by his standards) 2 from 4. One of the performances I am most happy about though came from John Munro. To be fair, I had to bench John for the first half after two miserable outings previously, not winning a frame in six, but in my head he is every bit a starter and I said to him at the start that I want 2 from 2 from him to get himself back in the starting line up where he belongs. I asked, he delivered, and heís made my starting selection for Portsmouth a little bit easier! Danny contributed with 1 from 2, Peter Mac came on for one frame and won it well. Adam, Will and Peter Pan were winless on the day but will no doubt be making up for that come Portsmouth.

So, thatís my first report as ĎCí captain Ė anyone who knows me from the Waterloo league knows that I can go on a bit when reflecting on matches, so be thankful that I decided to keep this one short Ö

See you all in Portsmouth, and let me know as usual if you canít make it well in advance so I can start working on the team. Hopefully weíll be able to sort out lifts for everyone as well.

The Doctor


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