Bowls: Sunderland eye winning start to 2017 in Inter-County League

Houghton A team senior bowlers (from left): Pat Collins, Jim Swinney, Dave Wright and Ian Whorlton

Houghton A team senior bowlers (from left): Pat Collins, Jim Swinney, Dave Wright and Ian Whorlton

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The Inter-County League returns to action tomorrow, with the first matches of 2017.

Fourth-placed Sunderland will be looking for a much-improved effort against pointless bottom club Gateshead A, following last month’s mauling at the hands of Hartlepool.

Sunderland team – at Houghton: R Usher, I Fairweather, R Jobling, F Froud; P Thomson (snr), E Downes, W Roberts, P Thomson; At Gateshead: K Armstrong, M Carr, R Mckie, P Dixon; G Brown, TW Todd, P Brickle, S Angus

After losing both their opening two games, Houghton will be looking to break that run against second-placed The Parks.

Houghton team – at Houghton: M Baker, J Biggerstaff, B Henderson (jnr), B Henderson (snr); J Doyle, K Waterson, I Whorlton, P Harding; At The Parks: J Sutherland, R Thorpe, D Todner, AJ Dunn; M Wright, D Wright, D Armstrong, J McAdoo

South Shields will also look to bounce back from a surprise defeat at the hands of The Parks as they entertain leaders Hartlepool, who have only dropped half a point from their opening two games.

Shields team – at Shields: P Hart, J Drummond, J McKenna, J Minto; K Taylor, J Wilson, P Sainthouse, D Paterson; At Hartlepool: E McCorol, K Thompson, N Ridley, I Riches; E Dent, D Robson, I Scott, A Lawton

League standings: Hartlepool played 2 pts 19½, Parks 3-19, Durham 2-17, Sunderland 3-10, Sth Shields 2-8, Houghton 2-6½, Gateshead A 2-0

The Seniors Inter-Club League starts up again on Monday morning when Houghton A face a tricky Group Three trip to Stanley.

After a good finish to 2016, the Houghton squad are currently joint top of the group and have a nine-point cushion over third-placed Gateshead.

Houghton team: J Sutherland, AN Other, T Joicey, D Sim; J Doyle, F Johnson, J Scullion, P Harding; P Collins, J Godfrey, D Wright, I Whorlton

Sunderland travel to Hartlepool on Wednesday morning for their Group Two meeting.

Bottom-of-the-table Sunderland’s hopes of even challenging for the second play-off spot will be ended if they succumb to defeat down the A19.

Sunderland team: G Brown, J Jones, R Robson, W Roberts; P Thomson, E Downes, P Brickle, TW Todd; A Grimes, M Carr, F Froud, RJobling. Reserve: A Wood

In Group Four, Houghton B have a bye and are not back in action until Friday, January 27 when they visit leaders Durham B.

Latest group standings, Group Two: Darlington B 5-23½, Hartlepool A 5-17½, Stanley 5-9½, Ferryhill 5-5½, Sunderland 4-4

Group Three: South Shields 5-19, Houghton A 5-19, Gateshead 5-10, Parks B 5-7, Stanley B 4-5

Group Four: Durham B 4-17, Hartlepool B 5-14, Parks A 4-12, Gateshead B 4-9½, Houghton B 5-2½

In the latest national championship action, Houghton’s Peter Thomson lost 18-6 at home to West Denton’s Aaron Robson in the triples, while South Shields Gary Farquhar defeated Stanley’s Brett Arkley 15-12 to set up a home tie against Gateshead’s Malcolm Johnston.

In the fours, Houghton’s Sam Patterson went down 27-14 at Shields against Jamie Brass, and there was more success for Shields as Stewart Hubbard edged a cracking 19-18 win at Durham against Michael Laydon.

That win sets up an all-Shields affair against Gary Farquhar.

In the Over-50 triples, Durham’s Michael Laydon squeezed home 16-15 against Gateshead’s Brian Orrell, setting up an interesting-looking tie at Stanley against Brett Arkley.

There should be a cracking Denny Cup last-16 tie today as Hartlepool face Cumbria.

In the Denny Plate, past winners Darlington face Stanley’s conquerors, Blackpool.

In the ladies’ Yetton Trophy, Cumbria face York, while West Denton tackle Hornsea in the Yetton Plate.

Following their dismantling of Durham in the Liberty Trophy, Cumbria progressed to the quarter-finals without bowling a bowl as Northumberland could not field a team.

Cumbria now face Lincolnshire at neutral Hartlepool next Saturday in the last eight after the latter beat Yorkshire by 47 shots.

South Shields will be looking to progress into the Mixed Egham Trophy semi-finals, with Lincoln standing in their way at neutral New Earswick newt Sunday.

Shields team: A Upsall, P Carlin, D Paterson, D Bolt; N Riches, K Paterson, I Riches, S McIntosh; M Robson, J Chapman, P Dixon, G Farquhar; J Tallack, M Charles, J McKenna, J Minto

Looking ahead to the outdoor season, the 2017 Grindon League fixtures have been released.

The campaign opens on Friday, May 12 when the last two remaining founder members, Grindon Mill and Wearmouth meet Silksworth and Dawdon respectively.

The season runs through to August 4, with matches every Friday night, barring June 23 and July 21.

Opening-night fixtures (May 12): Houghton Dairy Lane v Hylton CW, Ryhope v Usworth, Silksworth v Grindon Mill, South Hylton v Barnes West End, Wearmouth v Dawdon, Whitburn v Pennywell