The Manhattan Club, Harrogate – Saturday the 20th of June 20215 saw the 3rd and growing in popularity Harrogate V’s Knaresborough Darts league challenge match. Formatted in a very similar style to the Ryder Cup, the teams have to reach 15 points to secure a win, from a number of categorised individual and pairs games throughout the evening.
The teams are selected following the completion of the winter league from both Harrogate and Knaresborough Divisions forming 3 groups of 4 categorised players of similar standard, ensuring that the evening will be a closely contested one.
Shaun Smith, winner of the Harrogate & District Darts league’s Captains Cup, was formally announced as Harrogate captain following the leagues finals night this May, and quickly rounded up his selection of players. Ian Malkin took over from 2 time winning captain Danny Miller this year based on his form and his amazing Grand Slam of trophies from all local leagues this year. (Individuals / Pairs / Player of the Year) from both Harrogate and Knaresborough leagues.
So with the scene set, and the players selected, (some controversially as they play on both leagues) the games began in anger.
Nigel Andrews was first to pocket a point for defending champions Knaresborough as he overcame an ever improving Val Wilson, Ian Richardson evened up the score with a victory over 2 time trophy veteran Emma Lockwood. Gary Marshall played a strong part in gaining a valuable Harrogate point beating Knaresborough’s Lewis Edwards in a close game but the night was to remain close all the way, with a equalising game by Knaresborough’s Ian Mitchell, defeating Rob Davidson.
In the second category Knaresborough really started to take control, with a Win for Karl Walker over Lewis Pride. Danny Miller, last year’s winning captain took a hard fought point against Mark Threlfall. Things were starting to go the way of the Crag Rats when three time Harrogate representative Tony Sharratt was out of sorts, and lost to a strong Rich Graham, and in the final category game Lee Swales took the only Harrogate point of this category against Aidy Shaw with a strong game of darts.
With the game poised at 5 points to 3 in favour of Knaresborough Harrogate needed a real push in the category 1 group, this was thought to be the strongest element of the Harrogate team, and so, bar one surprise victory it turned out to be with victories to Alex Pride over Andy Marwood, Neil Fullard over Ray Davey and Gary Hobson over Oli Hawkridge in the game of the night. Ben Gray the outstanding player from Knaresborough took the single category 1 point from Steven Higgins.
This left the score 6 point to both teams prior to the Captains, and Wildcards matches which ended up with points being shared. Ian Malkin took the captains game from Shaun Smith with some quality arrows, and Popular Rick Harper (he played for the opposition last year and the boos were made in jest) took the wildcard point from an ever improving Ian Jones
So all square at 7-7 with only the pairs to play and with double points available for these quick fire 1001 single leg games anything could happen.
Harrogate was off to a great start with Ian Richardson and Val Wilson taking the first game from Nige Andrews and Emma Lockwood. The next 3 pairs were all about Knaresborough teamwork with Lewis Edwards / Ian Mitchell , Karl Walker / Rich Graham, Danny Millar / Aidy Shaw all taking points for the strong Knaresborough team.
This took the score to 13 – 9 in Knaresborough’s favour and with 3 possible pairs games left, they only needed one win to secure victory for the 3rd year running.
Harrogate’s strength was in its category one players, and so it panned out as Knaresborough struggled to cross the winning line , victories for Alex Pride / Neil Fullard and Steve Higgins / Gary Hobson ensured that this would go down to the wire. So at 13 points each, the team captains and wildcards took to the stage for the final time late Saturday evening.
Ian Malkin and Ian Jones V’s Harrogate’s Shaun Smith and UK Police Darts Champion Rick Harper. Knaresborough flew away with high scores from the off and didn’t look back, a great team effort with the entire Knaresborough team behind them saw Malkin and Jones take the prize in style.