The battle to make it to the semi-finals of the BGBA Endsleigh Insurance County Championship comes to a conclusion this weekend.
Derbyshire lead the way after two narrow wins against North Midlands and Potteries. They face the bottom team in the group, Lancashire in the final game and will be favourites to make it through. Derbyshire are using the Stretton Club and will be hoping to build on their sensational home form. They have won seventeen of twenty-four games at home so far this season and it will be a personal triumph for Neil Worthington who returns to the Derbyshire team after illness. It’s good to see Naz back on the green.
Wigan Subscription Club is the venue for the Lancashire home game and they will be hoping for a repeat of the ten winners they had in 2017 against South Yorkshire as they try to end a run of narrow defeats so far this year. This famous venue in the centre of Wigan has seen an endless list of top quality games and there could be more in this game.
Keeping an eye on this game will be Potteries and North Midlands as either of them can qualify if Derbyshire lose. North Midlands are using the famous Coundon Club and a repeat of the ten winners they had last season will be the aim. They face a Potteries team who they beat in the 2017 final and who also made it to the semis last year. They are going to the tried and trusted Birches Head Hotel aiming to repeat last year’s eleven winners.
This should be a classic encounter as a repeat of last year’s final sees Warwick and Worcester, who won by a single point, play South Yorkshire. With respect to the other counties it is the game to watch.
The reigning champions are using King George Vth where they had nine winners last year and South Yorkshire are using Crookesmoor Recreation where, last year, they had a clean sweep of winners. Both sides have recorded fairly close wins over Cheshire so far this season who must have felt slightly aggrieved to have played so well against two top counties.
Can Ryan Prosser, Greg Smith et al repeat their wins? Can Jack Whitehead claim another man of the match performance?
Or will it be Chris Kelly and last year’s man of the match Ryan Clark claiming the honours?
Shropshire lead the way in this group and they will be favourites as they take on Cumbria at Hanmer Bowls Club and make the long journey up the M6 to Burton-in-Kendal BC. Shropshire had a hair’s breadth win against Yorkshire before recording a comfortable home and also away triumphs over North Lancs and Fylde.
Jon Palmer leads Shropshire’s averages as he maintains his reputation as one of the top twenty something’s in the game.
Hoping for a Shropshire slip up will be Yorkshire and also North Lancs and Fylde.
Both sides have recorded reasonably relaxed wins over Cumbria away from the battles against the group leaders. Lindley Bowls Club is the venue for the Yorkshiremen and Woodplumpton the North Lancs men.
This game should see some intriguing match ups. Graeme Wilson against Owen Jackson and Craig Gant against Andrew Cairns should be worth watching at Lindley. Mike Leach against Chris Mordue should be worth the admission price on its own at Woodplumpton.
Wales lead the group and they face Merseyside in the final game. Wales must either avoid defeat or lose by less than twenty-three to finish ahead of the Merseyside men who their closest challenges in the group. The Welsh men are using Brymbo Bowls Club as the home venue as they try to qualify for the semis for the first time since 2015.
Merseyside have thrown something of a surprise move by using Windle Bowling Club. This club is hosting its first county match and was the venue for the Merseyside Merit earlier in the season.
The winner on that day, Kevin Kearns, plays Jason Jones in what should be a classic and Anthony O’Neill makes his first appearance for Merseyside since 2013.
Hoping for a narrow Merseyside win will be Staffordshire who could go through if they have a big win against Greater Manchester. Both counties are using home greens of the slightly small variety. Cradley Sports is the venue for the Staffordshire men and Norden Bowls Club is the home venue for the Greater Manchester men.
Cradley Sports used to be the venue for one of the early season Champion of Champions events. A game worthy of that competition is Glynn Storer against Matt Gillies.
What the line up for the semi-finals will become clear on Sunday. What’s fair to say is that there will be some battles on the green to keep the spectators happy.