AFTER winning the Roberts Bakery Cup for the first time last year, Pete Illidge admits rivals have treated him differently.

“My teammates call me ‘Mr Roberts’,” he quipped.

Not that it will change how he approaches a defence of his title in the final tonight at Crosstown in Knutsford.

An underdog 12 months ago, he told the Guardian the same applies this time around.

“I’ll play without pressure – nobody expects me to win it a second time,” said the Rudheath member.

“I’m chuffed just to be in the last eight again if I’m honest.”

He does not exaggerate; after trailing Tony Malisch, himself a former winner, in a qualifier at Moulton RBL, he feared his chance had gone.

However he recovered from 13-0 adrift against the Lostock Graylams man to progress.

Victories against Tom Palin (Rudheath) and Danny Moores (Comberbach) completed an impressive night’s work.

Illidge said: “It’s definitely boosted my confidence to win last year.

“I must have felt good, because I swapped my bowls for new ones at the start of this season.

“That was a mistake, and I’ve no idea why I did it – I’m back using my old ones again.”

Blocking his path to the last four is Castle star Andy Hamman, who lifted the Guardian Cup last term.

The Cheshire regular also starts with a two-chalk handicap advantage over Illidge.

“I’ve not played Andy that often before,” said the champion.

“I think he’s beaten me previously, so I expect a difficult game. Let’s see what happens.

“If I get beat, then that’s fair enough.

“I’ve looked at a list of the past winners in the league handbook, and I’m proud to read my name alongside theirs.

“I consider myself an average bowler, not a great one, and I proved to myself I could do it.

“Some people said ‘about time’ after last year’s final, which is still a great memory for me to treasure.”

Play starts from 6.45pm.

Roberts Bakery Cup

Finals night

Friday, June 16

At Crosstown Bowling Club

Quarter final (handicap in brackets)

Mike Yearsley (Castle) (2) v Tom Vickers (Wharton Cons) (scr)

Peter Illidge (Rudheath) (scr) v Andy Hamman (Castle) (2)

Joe Tomkinson (Owley Wood) (6) v John Gurney (Comberbach) (2)

Matt Thurlwell (Comberbach) (2) v Jason Cornes (Castle) (2)