BIG WEEK FOR SPERRIN

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This week saw the Sperrin take a major step to securing top spot in the Tennent’s Coleraine Pool League.

The leaders picked up another comfortable win, while both second placed Bullseye A and third placed Floyds crashed to defeats. Damien Reid’s Bullseye A were narrowly defeated in an exciting contest by the defending champions Forge A, while Floyds were surprisingly beaten by Mary Pats. The Forge A’s victory seems to have confirmed the top four places, so it is now a matter of jockeying for position, with only five matches left, to see who plays who in the inaugural end of season play offs.

Forge A 11 – 9 Bullseye A - This was, no doubt, a tight contest on paper but the defending champions have struggled against the top teams this year and needed a good performance to build confidence as the season moves towards the business end. Corey Sweeney and Steven McIlroy met in the opener, with both players struggling to find any momentum. After a number of missed chances, it was Sweeney who got the Forge off the mark.

The Bullseye came back strong though, as Damien Reid took advantage of a bad positional shot by Lee Hull to level the match. Reid was followed by Raymond Baxter who got the better of Marc Hutchinson in a cagey, tactical affair, which didn’t really suit either player. Chris Wade looked to be on his way to level the match up as he was potting balls from everywhere, but he then inexplicably missed a simple yellow to the middle, allowing Jimmy Moore back to make it 3-1 to the visitors. The Bullseye ended the first session with a three frame lead as Gary Wallace got the better of Willie Eakin after a tactical opening to the frame.

McIlroy was on first again in the second session, but he continued to struggle and Lee Hull reduced the deficit after the Bullseye man gave him one chance too many. Sweeney got his second of the night against fellow maverick Moore, before Hutchinson produced a great break and finish to bring the Forge level. Forge skipper Eakin met former team mate Baxter in the next and both players missed early chances, however after Eakin missed a tough double, the Bullseye man took out a good finish to edge the visitors in front. Ady Toner made his first appearance of the night but struggled to get going and Bullseye captain Reid picked up his second win to make it 6-4 at the halfway stage.

Once again, it was the home side who started better in the next session, as Chris Wade took out a great clearance against Moore. He was closely followed by Marc Hutchinson who produced a second break and finish in a row, opponent Wallace left shaking his head once again. Baxter stopped the rot again, after Sweeney played a poor shot when the game was on, the Bullseye man finished well to edge his team back in front. However, a scrappy win for Ady Toner followed by a classy finish from Lee Hull, from a very tough position, gave the Forge an 8-7 lead going into the final session. Gary Wallace was on first for the Bullseye, and he was just glad to get a shot after his last two frames.

Corey Sweeney had his chances once again, but the pressure told and a poor miss allowed Wallace the chance to turn the frame in his favour to square this excellent contest once again. Baxter was up next and he made it 4 out of 4 but with a big helping hand from opponent Wade who potted the black on his second shot to hand Bullseye the lead once again. The visitors should have secured at least a point in the next as Reid had the game at his mercy, however he attempted to send the white around the table for position and could only watch as it went into the middle pocket.

With three hanging reds and the black in the middle of the table, opponent Toner managed to clear but only after a lucky kiss on the black. Marc Hutchinson was up next and the Forge man was in top form as produced another awesome break and finish, a clearance that looked unlikely due to the position of his reds. The all important final frame saw Hull meet Adrian O’Kane for the second time in a row. Hull should have wrapped the game up but the pressure told as he missed a routine black. O’Kane potted all his yellows but left a tough black which he missed, allowing Hull another chance and he made no mistake this time. His pot secured two points for the home side in a match which showcased some great pool. Marc Hutchinson 3/4; Lee Hull 3/4; Raymond Baxter 4/4

Bullseye Old Boys 10 – 10 Forge Bar - A win for the home side would have pushed them closer to the top eight but they had to settle for a draw in a tough match. Daniel McAuley got his Forge team off to a good start after Hubert Smyth failed on a ‘2 in 1’ shot on the black. Keith Hunter levelled the match and Jeff Butcher should have followed up but he was unlucky on his last yellow and Matthew Hayes regained the lead for the Forge. Derek Allum finished well to square the match again but it swung back in the favour of the visitors as Chris Moore replied with a strong finish of his own.

Moore was straight back on again and made it a double, before Hayes also won his second after a foul by Butcher. However, the home side refused to buckle as Wesley Douglas grinded his way by Conor McGookin before Allum took out another great finish to bring the old boys within one. However, the ever dependable McAuley got the better of Hunter to finish the second session on a high for the visitors. Hunter and McAuley stayed on the table as they were drawn out together again, Hunter getting his revenge this time. Derek Allum continued his good form as he won his third in a row, levelling the match in the process.

Conor Kneeland nosed the visitors in front again after Douglas missed a black, but Smyth squared it up again with a great finish under pressure. Jeff Butcher once again missed a good chance as Hayes was gifted the next. The luck was definitely not on the old boys’s side as Douglas went in off the black in the next to gift another frame to the Forge, who were not 9-7 ahead. Butcher finally got the win he deserved in the next, before Smyth took the next frame, the luck turning as Kneeland potted the black too early. Captain Hunter had the chance to put the home side on this hill, but McGookin battled well against him and he took the frame. However, a draw was confirmed as Derek Allum capped a man of the match performance with another good performance against McAuley. Derek Allum 4/4; Chris Moore 3/4; Matthew Hayes 3/4

Sperrin 11 – 2 Bullseye B - A power packed performance by the league leaders which resulted in them stretching their lead to three points at the top of the league. Stephen McMullan had taken the first frame for the visitors, with a great clearance, after Raymond Stockman had missed an easy pot to the middle. They should have went two clear but Chris McColgan went in off the black to give Neville Smyth a win he didn’t deserve. This proved a catalyst to the home side as Paul O’Connor kept his recent good form going by beating Stephen Warwick.

He was followed closely by Billy Moore and Allen Tosh who both took out great finishes to make it 4-1 going into session two. The Bullseye reduced the deficit in the next as Kenny Watton took out an excellent clearance after O’Connor snookered himself. Tosh stopped any thought of a comeback as he produced another excellent clearance. His team mate Moore followed in with another flawless performance as the home side started to pull away. Lee Caulfield made his first appearance of the night and it was worth the wait as he blew Stephen Warwick away with an awesome finish.

Neville Smyth finished the second session by beating McColgan again, but Smyth far from his best. The third session started with Moore continuing his run, too strong for Warwick. Smyth added another, as he struggled by Stephen Biggart, before the excellent Allen Tosh won his third of the night, finishing in style. Billy Moore 3/3; Allen Tosh 3/3; Neville Smyth 3/3

Social Club 3 – 11 Railway Arms - Willie McMullan took the first for the home side but the Arms replied through Barry McLaughlin and Stephen Blair. Clem Howard returned to action for the Social Club and he got the better of John Huston to level the match. Arthur McMullan took the last frame of the firs session to edge his side in front. The second session was where they really took control of the match as they won all 5 frames. McMullan, McLaughlin and Blair all added a second, and they were helped by Huston and Scott McClelland picking up their first wins of the contest. McLaughlin won his 3rd of the night, just preceded by McClelland and this left the Arms on the hill. A break and finish by Clem Howard, with Huston once again the victim, did little to prolong the match as Blair took the next, also his 3rd win of the night. Stephen Blair 3 / 3 , Barry McLaughlin 3 / 3

Blackthorn 11 – 5 Roost. The battle of the bottom 2 saw the Blackthorn pick up their second win of the season, both of which came against the basement side. DD Campbell had got his visiting team off the mark as he beat Karl Doherty in the first. Ryan Hayes squared things up by beating Stewart Mitchell, but George Cameron regained the lead for the visitors. Neil Ferguson won his first game for the home side, and he was followed by Ian Freeman who left Pat Conway with six balls on the table to put the home side 3-2 in front.

Hayes then took his second with an excellent potting display, but George Cameron also took made it a double scraping past Freeman. The home side stepped up a gear after this as Davy Adams saw off Clive Robertson, before wins for Doherty and Ferguson put them 7 – 3 up at the midway point. Ferguson was straight back on again and made it three from three in only his second week of league pool, before Karl Doherty followed up with a hard fought win over Campbell. Mitchell and Conway managed to stop the Blackthorn juggernaut temporarily, but two wins for Ryan Hayes, who made it four from four, sealed the win. Ryan Hayes 4/4

Floyds 8 – 11 Mary Pats - This rates as one of the shocks of the season as high flying Floyds were brought down to earth with a bang after an inspired performance by Mary Pats. The importance of getting a good start has been clear all season in the one frame format, and it showed here as the visitors raced into an 8-0 lead. Brian Hutchinson and skipper Martin McNeill took the first two, before wins for Davy Rosborough, Leigh Sloan and Gary Kennedy completed a first session whitewash.

It wasn’t getting any better for Floyds as wins Hutchinson, McNeill and Sloan all doubled up in the second session. Alan McBride finally stopped the rot, beating Gary Kennedy, before Adam Watt took the next to make it 8-2 at the midway stage. After two disappointing performances, Floyds skipper Darryl Watt finally picked up a win in the next, but Sloan won his 3rd on the night to make it 9-3. A second win for McBride reduced the arrears slightly, but another great performance by McNeill put his side on the hill. The home side produced a mini revival through wins for Scott Clarke, Ricky McMullan and another for Darryl Watt. However, it was Gary Kennedy who potted the winning black for an excellent victory for the Macosquin outfit. Martin McNeill 3/3; Leigh Sloan 3/4

This week’s fixtures

Railway Arms vs Blackthorn

Roost vs Floyds

Mary Pats vs Bullseye Old Boys

Bullseye A vs Sperrin

Forge Bar vs Forge A

Bullseye B vs Social Club