Darts - 2003/2004 Season Review

A new darts season brought a new captain, a new format to the league, and more importantly, a new home venue.

The re-formatted league took the shape of a 3 division, 6-a-side league with promotion and relegation hopefully meaning a less "stale" tournament, and in typical Scunthorpe style, we were to start out at the bottom.

Our new venue would be the Arbitrager, just across the road from the Stock Exchange, where, through our friendship with the landlord, we would turn a corner of the downstairs bar into a little claret and blue home...

Man City (h)

The season began back in November with our first home game against Manchester City. Little did we know back then that we would be waiting so long for a home victory! The actual game will, unfortunately, be remembered only for the new captains' attack of dartitis/nerves/the yips. Call it what you will, we had clawed back from a 3-1 deficit after the first team game and doubles to be trailing only 4-3 against a five man (well three men and two women!) Man City side, when yours truly took to the oche to play my singles match against one of the aforementioned women. What followed was like something from a (bad) horror show. I went from being not able to get near the '20', to not being able to get anywhere near the board!

After what seemed (and just about was) an eternity, the Arbitrager wall and skirting board had taken a pounding, Steve Sumner was in tears, Tracy had used up all of her encouragement, and I was finally beaten.

We went on to take only one of the remaining two singles legs as Man City became our first opponents (but not the last) to take advantage of the new rules that enabled them to draw a player to replace their missing sixth, and the amount of time spent on my singles meant that we had to forfeit the beer leg for a 4-7 defeat.

Carlisle (a)

Next up was a trip to Tottenham Court Road to face Carlisle United. After getting off to a poor start with defeat in the first team game, a clean sweep of the doubles left us in a strong position at 3-1 going in to the singles. Frank put us 4-1 up before a Carlisle fightback brought it to 4-3. However, Andy and Landlord Steve managed to clinch their singles and put us in an unassailable 6-3 lead. Our first league victory for well over a year was met with celebration before Carlisle gave the scoreline a respectable look, taking the remaining singles and beer leg for us to complete a 6-5 win.

The only other thing of note was that after the Man City debacle, the captain dropped himself until the beer leg, when the match was won, but managed to regain a tiny amount of respect with a score of 100 in his first throw!

Burnley (h)

The following week we returned to the Arbitrager for a home game against Burnley. We managed to win our first team game, and followed it up with two of the three doubles for a 3-1 lead. Unfortunately it was all downhill from there, a singles victory for Chris being the only bright spot as we tumbled to another 4-7 home defeat.

Chester (a)

After an almost two month lay-off, we returned to action with a game away against Chester.

Our opponents could only manage a turnout of four (essentially five with the new 're-draw' rule), and we again got off to a good start. The first team game and two of the doubles gave us a now familiar 3-1 lead, before Landlord Steve and Colin, combined with our singles walkover, gave us an unassailable 6-2 lead. We lost our other singles, but managed to pick up our first beer leg of the season, running out 7-4 winners.

Blackpool (a)

The following game, a second successive away trip, saw us travelling to the Royal Star, Old Street, to play Blackpool. A defeat in the first team game followed the doubles in which we'd taken a 2-1 lead, including a nice 50 (18, D16) finish by Chris. Double one's were the order of the day in the singles however, as Andy and Colin's finishes on the "nuthouse" sandwiched defeat for Frank to give us a slender 4-3 advantage. Landlord Steve took out another leg to leave us on the brink of victory. However, Blackpool weren't finished yet and took the final singles legs to peg it back to 5-5 with only the beer leg left.

Thankfully Colin managed to hit the winning double as we kept up our 100% away record with a 6-5 victory.

Plymouth (a)

Early February provided a respite from the league with a cup game against our old 8-a-side opponents, Plymouth.

On the night, the result painted a false picture, as, although only Andy picked up a solitary victory in a 1-11 hammering, the game was a lot closer than the scoreline suggests. Each of our six players managed to throw at least one ton during the match, and we had chances at a double in every leg. However, our finishing let us down, and Plymouth progressed through to the next round.

Forest (h)

We returned to the Arbitrager in late February for a home match against Nottingham Forest. We made a slow start and not even an unconventional 24 finish (D5, D7) from Landlord Steve in his doubles match could prevent us taking a 1-3 deficit into the singles legs. Things were to get worse as the landlord could not repeat the feat in the one-man game, and we were left on the verge of defeat at 1-4. However, a run of victories for Andy, Colin, Chris and Frank hauled us into a surprise 5-4 lead. Defeat in the last singles left it down to the beer leg, but unfortunately we couldn't complete the job, and were left still looking for our first home victory after a 5-6 defeat.

Man City (a)

Our first return match of the season took us to the Sekforde Arms, looking for revenge against Manchester City. Things were all square after the team and doubles games, before Man City asked if one of their players could play his singles first as he had to head off early in order to get home. As they only had five players, and he had been drawn to play the spare singles, this meant he appeared in three legs on the trot, and was in very good form by his last match. It left a little sour taste when the player was still in the pub when the match finished!

From 2-4 down, we crashed to defeat, losing the next two legs, before Andy and Dev restored some respectability to the score with singles victories. Defeat in the beer leg though, left us with our first away loss in the league, 4-7.

Carlisle (h)

A couple of weeks later we went in search of our first home victory against a Carlisle side we had beaten earlier in the season. After losing the team leg, a 48 finish from Landlord Steve, 42 finish from Colin, and 15 from Steve Sumner in the doubles left us in good shape at 3-1 up. Three straight defeats in the singles, followed by wins for the two Neils, left us on the verge of victory at 5-4, but the win was snatched away again as we lost the remaining two legs to crash 5-6 and leave us wondering where the first home success would come from!

Burnley (a)

Our record away, however, was a lot better, and we attempted to improve it further with a second trip of the season to the Sekforde Arms, this time to face Burnley.

After the customary defeat in the team leg, victories completed by Dill and Colin in the doubles sandwiched a defeat, and it was all square heading into the singles. Defeat for Steve Sumner was followed by wins for Landlord Steve, Andy and Colin, sending us to the brink of victory at 5-3.

However, the captain was next up. Would we see a repeat of the nerves experienced against Man City? Luckily not. I'm not sure what happened, but I managed to play one of the legs of my life, throwing two 140's in the first four chucks, and taking out double tops at the third attempt, finishing the game in about 20 darts. A far cry from my first singles game of the season! Dev put the icing on the cake with his singles victory, and not even defeat in the beer leg could take the gloss off another 7-4 away victory.

Chester (h) Part I

Late April saw us take on Chester at the Arbitrager. We made a good start in our bid for that elusive home victory, but at 4-1 up, the game was interrupted by an almighty crash. One of the regulars in the pub had been descending from the bar above when the stairs had got the better of him and he came tumbling down. As he lay on the floor in a pool of blood, "nurse" Tracy came into her own, talking to the injured person (who we later found out was called Charlie) and looking after him until the paramedics arrived and took him off to hospital. Updates a couple of days later from Landlord Steve revealed that Charlie had suffered a fractured skull.

We decided to abandon and reschedule the game and I headed home. Lucky I did, as everyone who stayed ended up being "locked" in the Arbitrager as a bomb scare cleared the streets around the Stock Exchange. An eventful night, but we'd have to try again later in the season for a result!

Forest (a)

A rearranged trip to the Stamford Arms was a further test of our away form with a game against Nottingham Forest. This proved to be arguably our most disappointing result of the season.

A good start with victory in the first team game was evened out with defeat in two of the three doubles to leave the game finely poised. A loss in the first singles leg was followed by a run of three victories, including a brilliant 72 finish (T12, D18) from Andy, to leave us on the edge again at 5-3. We couldn't complete the job in the last two singles, to send the match to the beer leg at 5-5. We scored well and were looking to be good to get to a finish first, when one of the opposition threw a 180, and in the end we slumped to a 5-6 defeat.

After being so close to victory against a good Forest side on their way to becoming champions, it was disappointing to finish on the wrong end of the scoreline.

Blackpool (h)

We looked to put the setback against Forest behind us as we took on Blackpool at home, still searching for that first home win. The opposition turned up with only four, so we "lent" them Tracy for the evening, a move that we would later regret!

We kicked off with the doubles matches, and Colin managed to get us off to a great start, taking out a 69 finish (T19, D6) for a 1-0 lead. At this stage I had to leave, handing over the reigns to former captain Steve Sumner.

From what I understand, Tracy hit a double to defeat Landlord Steve and Dill in their doubles as we fell 1-3 down after team and doubles games. After falling further behind, we hauled ourselves back to 4-4 before fading to defeat at 4-6. Even a victorious beer leg to leave the score 5-6 couldn't redeem things as we again missed out on that elusive home win.

Chester (h) Part II

And so on to our last game of the season. With Chester the visitors again, we were looking for a quieter night and hopefully a victory to end the season on a high.

Again the opposition was short, so, not learning from my mistakes; I again loaned out Tracy, along with Steve Sumner. Luckily things went a lot better this time. Victory in the team game was followed by a clean sweep in the doubles to send us into a 4-0 lead. After defeat in the first singles leg, victory for Chris set up the chance for Frank to clinch our first home victory which he duly took. Wins in two of the three remaining singles and the beer leg gave us our best result of the season, a 9-2 win.

And so, my first season in charge came to an end. An eventful year which had it's ups and it's downs. The new format of the league has its drawbacks, but in the whole I feel it has been very successful and has provided a great deal of enjoyment (I think that Steve Sumner is still laughing from another one of my throws, which hit the wall against Man City!).

During the season, we had three ever-presents, Landlord Steve, Colin and myself who seemed to prove that practicing does actually work, finishing as the top three in the averages (although after my first match I'm not sure how I managed to turn it around!).

Colin and Steve also battled it out for the most finishes, with the landlord just pipping Colin 17 to 16. The best outshot award though, has to go to Andy for his 72 finish away at Forest.

Many thanks to all of you that turned out and I hope you've all enjoyed it.

Until next year, keep practicing...

'Skipper' Neil.