It is January in Middle Earth.
The darts room of the Prancing Pony is packed to the rafters.
Things are extremely tense upon the oche.
For, with just one game remaining, the table topping encounter between the Hobbits and Orcs is tied at 4-4.
Bilbo Baggins, still without a win in fifty years, is last up for the Hobbits.
Facing him is Azog the Terrible, undefeated Champion of the Middle Earth Darts League.
Unsurprisingly, the Orc quickly builds up an unassailable lead.
Still to locate his starting double, Bilbo lights his clay pipe in an attempt to settle his nerves.
Puffing away furiously, he returns to the oche and peers haplessly at the board.
Then he drops a dart.
He bends over to retrieve it.
Azog spots his chance.
He boots the unfortunate Bilbo squarely in the bottom.
The Orc is disqualified.
Bilbo is declared the winner.
Azog is unconcerned.
He has achieved his New Year’s Resolution.
At last he has managed to kick the smoking hobbit.
Also pleased with their start to the New Year are the darters of Highbury ‘A’, this after leapfrogging opponents Dockers ‘A’ at the top of the table.
First half wins for Ray Connolly, Mark Thwaites and Robert Dagger, the response from their visitors a solitary one courtesy of Tom Duggan.
Further wins at the start of the second period for Eddie Miller and man of the match Carl Simey secure both points for the Highbury at 5-1, this before a belated brace of wins for the still undefeated Adam Blyth and top banana Mark Shewan reduce the deficit to 5-3 at the close.
Moving up to within two points of top spot are defending champions the Cons, this after a splendid tussle upon Lowther Road with the fourth placed Mount.
An opening win by Dale Newton gets the hosts of to a flyer, this before Jimmy Reilly rolls back the years in emphatically levelling things at 1-1. When a close encounter between Wes Newton and Steve Riley goes the way of visitors, hope springs eternal in every esplanaders breast.
Buck back roar the Cons in time honoured fashion. First, Jordan Brooks levels things in game four, this before man of the match Dean Barker rattles in a maximum in edging the hosts ahead at 3-2. A guaranteed point is secured in game six; this after Dave Smith duly wins for the thirteenth time this season.
Still though, the Olympians refuse to bend the knee as Andy Parry Jones reduces the deficit to 4-3 in the penultimate game. There are nerves aplenty on show in the final leg, Alan Ashton and Rob Saunders going at it toe to toe before the Cons man secures the win by 301-299. Mount skipper and piscatorial purveyor, Jeff Taylor, looks uncannily like one of his prize haddocks at the end of proceedings. Mouth agape and blank of eye, he struggles to comprehend the unfairness of it all.
Meanwhile, across town in Annie’s Attic, the Beach Road Boys continue their remarkable climb from bottom of the table at the end of last season, to fifth spot this year. On Friday Mike Tallentire leads the way in their 8-0 demolition of the Femme Fatales, a scoreline that eases them a solitary leg ahead of Dockers ‘B’.
This week the Blyth Spirits are soon in arrears after Anthony Rhimes gets visitors Highbury ‘B’ off to a winning start. After pulling level through Gareth Bidder, the home side once again find themselves trailing after a tremendous leg of darts from John Shaw. Back in the direction of the home side swings the game at 3-2, this after a brace of wins for Craig Gill and the eponymous Cliff Blyth.
Still though, there is all to play for after skipper Andy Helsby’s man of the match performance in making it 3-3. Sadly, that is to be as good as it gets for the footballers, as Andy Parry Jones Jr. and top stick Chris Blyth Sr. secure late wins for a well-earned 5-3 victory.
Another close encounter of the darting kind is taking place in the Land that Cabs Forgot. Wins for Ian Ivison and Mark Wilson see visitors the Biased Boys ease into an early lead, this before Martin Coleclough gets the aged ones up and running in game three. The first half ends with the visitors once again two legs clear, Spike O’Connor proving that he is more than just a celebrity chef.
Into the second half and a stirring fight back by the pensioners levels things at 3-3, this after excellent wins for Joe Lavery and Mick Buckingham. Alas for the Ashley, terrible twosome Mike Jackson and Terry Beavers have decided to turn up on Friday. So it is that the Bowling Club secures both points in the dying embers of the game, a result that causes matron to withhold all bed bath privileges over the weekend.
Eddie Fitton wins again on Friday as the Cricket Club takes an early lead over hosts the Fuzzy Ducks. A shared experience between Andy Gratrix and Matty Kilburn maintains the status quo, this before man of the match Graham Hopkinson and Curtis Sandercock edge the Strawberry ahead at the end of the opening half.
But after attacking the buffet with gusto, visitors Jimmy Pilling, Tony Kemp and man of the moment Darren Rathbone continue to gorge themselves at the oche. Three unanswered wins take the cricketers safely across the winning line, this before Ian Kempson chalks up a consolatory victory for the homesters when all is lost.
Meanwhile, the Royal Oak and Kings Own have to settle for a share of the spoils on Lord Street. Stan Billington is best on the night for the Collapsibles with Richard Atkin similarly splendid for the home side. Both sides, and indeed all involved in local darts, will want to wish Peter Atkin a speedy recovery after being taken ill at the match.
Our final league action this week comes from the Blasted Heath, where the home side races into an unassailable 5-0 lead over visitors the Workingmens. Man of the match Mark Mizon it is that secures both points for the rampant Rossallites, this before Phil Lee salvages a little late pride for the well beaten Workies.
Congratulations also this week to the Fleetwood town team. The highlight of their 7-3 victory over Eccleston a 157 finish from captain Mark Shewan, as he fights back from 3-0 down to clinch a dramatic 4-3 win.