NOBODY could beat Thomas Vickers last season, so Pete Illidge will be in good company if he fails to do so in Friday’s last eight.

He can still be optimistic though.

Last week the 58-year-old was on the green when another formidable foe, Brunner Cup champions Tixall, was sent packing by Rudheath.

“There’s always a surprise or two isn’t there?” he said.

“I’m chuffed to have made it through, and of course Tom is a great player – one of the best.

“I was there to cheer him on at the All England Championships last summer, and was made up to see him win.

“Most bowlers will look at the draw and say ‘hope’ is my best shot.

“But those same people would probably have said the same about our game against Tixall last week, more so after they beat us heavily in the same competition last season.

“We showed it’s not always that straightforward.”

Illidge will not suffer big-match nerves either after reaching the last eight of a number of Mid-Cheshire Bowling Association competitions in the past two decades.

Roared on by Rudheath teammates who plan to travel to Winsford Cons to support him, he is excited to be testing himself against the best of the rest in the league.

He added: “I can’t remember if I’ve beaten Tom or not, perhaps a long time ago in a team knockout.

“But after a shaky start to the season, my form has picked up a bit in the past few weeks.

“I feel alright now, and played on the green recently in a Norley League game.

“It usually runs quite slowly, and that can be a bit of a leveller.

“Well, it is against guys who aren’t called Tom Vickers!

“What he’s achieved in the game is fantastic, and he’ll be expected to beat me.

“If he does, then I’ll do my best to make sure he doesn’t have it all his own way.”

Four former winners – Nicola Boulton, Glynn Cookson, Paul Mackie and Vickers – are among the eight finalists at Winsford Cons.

Mid-Cheshire Bowling Association

Roberts Bakery Cup final

Friday, June 17 

Last eight (handicap in brackets)

Frank Robinson (Castle Private) (4) v Mark Winnington (Hazel Pear) (2)

Pete Illidge (Rudheath) (2) v Thomas Vickers (Wharton Cons) (-2)

Nicola Boulton (Frodsham Red Lion) (2) v Glynn Cookson (Wharton Cons) (scr)

Simon Cookson (Wharton Cons) (2) v Paul Mackie (Castle Private) (2)