Houghton A took a massive step towards clinching a Senior Inter-Club League play-off place this week.
They secured a cracking 4-1 away win against third-placed Gateshead A in Group Three, bolstering their second-top ranking.
The pick of the rinks was David Sim’s quartet of Joe Sutherland, Brian Race and Trevor Joicey, who raced into an 11-0 lead against Bob Charlton before easing to a 19-12 win.
John Doyle, Peter Noble, Jack Thuburn and Freddie Fletcher nearly let slip a 9-1 lead as they had to settle for a nervous 10-9 win over Alan Birrell.
The remaining rink of Pat Collins, John Godfrey, Jimmy Swinney and team captain Foster Johnson looked set for victory as they led 12-7 after 12 ends.
However, a dropped six on the 13th saw Johnson trail 13-12. Going into the last end level, they were left reeling as a dropped three on the final end sealed a 16-13 defeat to Ian Patterson.
The 42-37 win gives the Houghton lads a little breathing space over Gateshead A, however they next face leaders South Shields, who have notched 19 out of a possible 20 points so far this season.
In Group Four, Houghton B looked for their first win of the season as they entertained second-bottom Gateshead B.
But, despite a spirited performance, Houghton were pipped 42-41 (3½-1½).
The only win came from Keith Waterson, George Charlton, Fred Sanderson and Richard Thorpe. The B team will end 2016 with a trip to Hartlepool in a fortnight.
Latest standings, Group 1: Darlington A played 3 pts9, Spennymoor 3-9, Shildon 2-6, Gt Aycliffe 2-5, Durham A 2-1
Group 2: Darlington B 3-14, Stanley 4-9, Hartlepool A 2-8, Ferryhill 3-5, Sunderland 4-4
Group 3: South Shields 4-19, Houghton A 4-14, Gateshead A 3-9, Stanley B 4-5, Parks B 4-3
Group 4: Durham B 3-13, Parks A 4-12, Gateshead B 3-9½, Hartlepool B 3-8, Houghton B 4-2½
Last weekend’s Denny Cup clash between South Shields and Durham lived up to its billing.
Durham snatched a dramatic three-shot 69-66 win to set up a last-32 clash against Cumbria, who beat Copeland by 27 shots.
In the Denny Plate, two former powerhouses returned to winning ways. Stanley bounced back with an impressive 21-shot win over West Denton, while Darlington crushed Thornaby by 38 shots. In the next round, Stanley meet Blackpool while Darlington tackle Leeds, with the winners facing each other.
Houghton ladies’ hopes of progressing in the Yetton Plate were dashed as they were beaten 81-61 by West Denton.
At Houghton, the home squad finished a single shot in credit.
Jenny Smith steered her rink of Joan Watt, Gwen Eltringham and Brenda Robson to a cracking 23-15 win over Norma Craig, however Betty Prudhoe, Margaret Eggleston, Ellen Faith and Joan Rodgerson were made to pay for a slow start, going down 20-13 to Annie Lennie.
At West Denton, both Houghton squads were beaten. Jenny Hume, Ruth Turnbull, Joan Baker and Florence Phythian went down 23-17 to Margaret Cowan, while Norma Stephenson’s quartet of Evelyn Barkes, Eleanor Barren and Margaret Metcalf had a tough morning, succumbing 23-8. That left the away squad 21 shots adrift.
West Denton face Eden in the next round.
There has been plenty of action in the local section of the national competitions.
In the singles, 2007 national champion Gary Smith won an all-Durham affair 21-11 against Mark Appleby to set up a mouth-watering tie against South Shields’ David Bolt. Bolt has won the last two meetings 21-9.
Shields’ Shaun McIntosh eased past Durham’s Andrew Barkess 21-4, while Durham’s Michael Laydon had a cracking 21-8 win at Shields against Josh Minto. Stewart Hubbard won an all-Shields affair 21-8 against Jaxon McKenna.
Houghton’s Freddie Fletcher and Steve Tindale saw their run in the pairs end with a 22-9 loss to Alec Bryden at Gateshead, while Houghton’s Peter Thomson was beaten 20-9 at Durham by Phil Smithson and Gary Smith.
They will now travel to West Denton to face Clive Knott in the next round.
In the triples, Gary Farquhar beat Shields club-mate Billy Ferry 19-7 and will head to Stanley next to face Gary Robson.
Shields’ Stewart Hubbard gained an excellent 18-14 fours victory over Stanley’s Brett Arkley and next faces a trip to Houghton or Durham.
South Shields’ Jaxon McKenna beat Durham’s Mark Barkess 2-0 in the Under-25 singles.
Durham County’s Liberty Trophy squad are in action today at Carlisle as they face Cumbria in the first round.
Durham, beaten finalists last year, will need to be at their best if they harbour any hopes of progressing.
Team manager Dave Kilner has made seven changes to the Durham line-up which lost to Kent in the final. After a year’s absence, the county’s most capped player, Stanley’s John Thurlbeck, makes a welcome return to the county fold.
There were surprisingly no nominations from Darlington, ensuring five of the changes. A reserve will be called in as skip Paul Mosley is now not available.
Durham: J Forcer (Hartlepool), M Barkess (Durham), P Smithson (Durham), GR Smith (Durham); M Peach (Shields), W Ferry (Shields), G Farquhar (Shields), V O’Neill (Hartlepool); P Dixon (Shields), C Boston (Hartlepool), G Skipp (Hartlepool), P Mosley (Hartlepool); B Arkley (Stanley), I Jackson (Hartlepool), I Peacock (Stanley), J Thurlbeck (Stanley); M Ray (Hartlepool), C Higgins (Hartlepool), M Squirrel (Hartlepool), P Hartley (Hartlepool); J Minto (Shields), S McIntosh (Shields), C Yeomans (Shields), D Bolt (Shields). Reserves: A Barkess (Durham), J Wells (Hartlepool), N Ridley (Shields), A Bryden (Gateshead), J McKenna (Shields), J Sneller (Shields)
The County Under-25s Double Fours squad will be looking for a repeat of last season’s performance as they face Lincolnshire in this year’s first round, at York on Sunday, December 18 (noon).
Last year, en route to the semi-finals, Durham sneaked past Lincolnshire by a single shot, but, with only two of last season’s eight bowlers playing, a new-look Durham squad will need to be at their best to progress into the next round.
Durham: C Morrison (Ferryhill), J McKenna (South Shields), M Gleeson (Great Aycliffe), J Minto (South Shields); J Harston (Darlington), M Barkess (Durham), J Halcrow (Hartlepool), M Ray (Hartlepool)
The England selectors have named a 32-man trial team which will be whittled down to 24.
South Shields’ David Bolt, Stanley’s Brett Arkley and Hartlepool’s Paul Hartley are all included for the trial at Northampton in a fortnight. The Home International Series takes place in Belfast in March.
After winning three of the last four outdoor Under-25 Home International Series titles, team manager Hedley Bowen has decided to step down. Bowls England are now looking for new team managers for all four teams.