This weekend saw the second and final weekend of the Veteran County Championships. At the start of the weekend Northumberland were second in Division 1A with 5 points, just 1 point behind leaders Cheshire 1. The line-up for this second weekend saw one change as Jim Stamas stood in for Dave Robson alongside Andrew Wilkinson, Eddie Smith and Christine Burke. Robson, having performed adequately in the first weekend, told the team that he wouldn’t play the second weekend but gave no reason. Since then he hasn’t been seen in his usual practising haunts or on social media, leading to speculation that he was perhaps unhappy with his individual performances. Fortunately for the county, Stamas is renowned for being a genuine team player who fights for every point and his performances over the weekend were to prove Robson wasn’t irreplaceable.

Northumberland’s first game was a clash of the top of the table teams as they faced Cheshire. Unfortunately for objective bystanders, Cheshire were unable to field 4 players, missing their female component, but in the end it likely wouldn’t have made a huge difference as Northumberland ran out 9-1 winners.

The second game of the weekend was to be Northumberland’s toughest competition. Lincolnshire’s number 1 and number 2 men, Andy Wignall and Mark Donoghue, have both won 51 out of 51 matches in the top flight of their local league this season and are showing excellent form. In the first match Andy Wilkinson went 2-0 up quite easily against Donoghue, losing out on the third by a whisker at 15-13. Donoghue, who has exhibited such tenacious tendencies in the past, battled all the way through and somehow managed to take the next two ends 11-9 to win the match 3-2. Almost the exact same situation occurred when Stamas faced Dan Rimmer, losing 3-2 after being 2-0 up. Eddie Smith played well to beat Andy Wignall in 4 ends then he and Christine Burke combined to comfortably win the first mixed doubles against Wignall and Lesley Keast. The match was neck to neck all the way up to the last 2 matches and for a second it looked like Northumberland might just pip Lincolnshire to the post when Wilkinson beat Wignall but Stamas and Burke just lost out in the final mixed doubles which allowed Northumberland’s opponents to take a 5-5 draw.

At the end of the first day, Northumberland found themselves top of the table by a single point.

On Sunday, Northumberland’s first opponent was a Northants line-up of John Fuller, Steve Silk, Richard Elliott and Christine Scaysbrook. Northumberland got off to a fantastic start as Wilkinson and Stamas won 1 each and Smith won 2 plus the mixed doubles to take a 5 match lead. Burke was unfortunate to lose to Scaysbrook with 2 of the 4 ends going to deuce and Stamas had a brilliant game with Silk, eventually losing 16-14 in the deciding end. This was all the opposition Northants could muster however and Northumberland ran out 8-2 winners.

Coming in to their final game against Oxfordshire, Northumberland needed a win to seal promotion. The team started well when Wilkinson beat Andy Misseldine and Stamas beat Neil Hurford but then Smith lost out in a tight 5-ender in which 3 ends finished 12-10 including the decider. Fortunately for the county it was relatively plain sailing from here on out as the team didn’t drop another match until Burke and Stamas lost the final mixed doubles.

This 8-2 victory gave Northumberland the title meaning next year they’ll be promoted to the Premier division. This is a great accomplishment for the team but will also mean a particularly stern test next year.

The winning team

Northumberland County Vets Team April 2017

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