Potters: Andy Thomson MBE punches air as he progresses through first round

Andy Thomson MBE punched the air in delight after seeing off Wayne Willgress in a dramatic first-round World Indoor Singles clash yesterday, a result that has repercussions for both players in respect of their top-16 hopes.

Three-time champion Thomson was facing the prospect of possibly playing his last-ever match at Potters should he have lost, as that would almost certainly have ended his 20-year plus stint in the WBT elite, while a win for Willgress could well have rubber-stamped his entry on to the top table.

But experience won out over exuberance, although it needed a tie-break to separate the pair after Thomson edged a cagey first 7-4, with Willgress levelling things up with a 9-7 win in the second. Thomson then duly won the first two ends of the three-end lottery to book a second-round berth against Greg Harlow or Brendon Egan.

It wasn’t quite straightforward as that though. Willgress took the first end with a single, but passed up an opportunity to bag a possible full house, which would have laid down a solid marker.

From there on in Thomson, who seemed well up for the contest controlled the rest of the set, with Willgress looking a little nervy, presumably due to the major prize within touching distance.

Thomson strengthened his grip on proceedings by forging 6-2 ahead and swatted away a late rally from the local hero and take first blood.

Willgress, needing to up his game to stand a chance of prolonging the match, went back to the drawing board and started playing like he did 12 months ago when he reached the semi-final and started winning ends at a rapid rate, so much so, he carved out an 8-1 advantage after six ends and looked home and hosed.

Then he dropped a double to give Thomson hope, but it was end eight that really set the cat amongst the pigeons. The former England captain’s jack cast didn’t reach the minimum 23-metre length, so Willgress had a chance to stick the pot where he wanted. That he did, but the length suited Thomson so much so, that he stuck four close without the Norfolk man, amazingly, landing a blow.

A seven-shot lead had been whittled down to one with just one end left and with Thomson holding a match-winning three-shot lie, it took an unbelievable bowl from Willgress, who delivered a wood across the rink to the respot, to take the match into a tie-break.

So far this tournament, not a single seeded player has lost on the three-end shoot-out and so it proved again. Thomson got in close on the first end to take it and Willgress let his standards slip on end two, giving the 63-year-old the chance to take the match, which he grabbed by both ends and to which he celebrated wildly.

Defending Mixed Pairs champions Lesley Doig and Jamie Chestney were ousted from the event at the semi-final stage as the new partnership of Helen Carman and Nick Brett yet again impressed as they took the match by two sets to nil.

A nip-and-tuck first set came down to Brett’s final bowl, when he delivered a stunning backhand draw to within a few inches of the jack when three down, to ensure they took the first set 6-4.

The Kiwi and Englishman looked as they though they were going to run with away the second set, when cruising to a 6-1 lead, but a dropped three ensured a nervy final end, but Brett once more came up trumps to stick one close when three down and deny their opponents the chance to extend the encounter, taking it 6-5.

They will face Ellen Falkner and Robert Paxton in the final on Tuesday after they overcame Janice Gower and Paul Foster via a tie-break.

Falkner and Paxton had the edge in the first, taking it 8-4, but just as it looked like they would win in straight sets, Foster produced a superb runner to clean out Paxton’s shot bowl on the final end of the second set 6-5 and clinch the three shots needed to trigger the tie-break.

The English-Scottish combo took the first end, but Paxton then pulled a big bowl out to level the match and on the final end, it was the younger duo who produced the goods to progress to the showpiece on Tuesday afternoon.

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