Well what a Middleton Cup season we have had, right from the very start we knew it would be tough to get out of our group as we basically had 6 new set ups, but we got off to a flyer at home to Dorset and over the next three group games our confidence grew, although we made changes on the way, and it culminated with a fantastic win over Somerset on their home pitch to seal qualification.
So we qualified for the quarter finals against Berkshire who we had lost to the previous year at the same stage, however the team put up a superb performance with a great togetherness, and won a very tight match on the last end against a very strong Berkshire side.
We then made it to Worthing, which this year was a big bonus for us, and looking at the draw we possibly had the advantage, although we certainly did not go out to Leicestershire thinking we were favourites. This was always going to be a tough game, especially as at the last minute we lost our England International Graham Shadwell as Bowls England would not change the timing of his quarter final in the mixed pairs.
So we moved Steve Snell up to skip and moved Paul MacDonald up to three and brought in James Nobbs at two who had played well reaching the Triples final with Neil Smith and Gary Morphet the previous week.
We all know how close the Leicestershire game was, I think at one stage we were actually 20 shots down and still 15 shots down across the board at 17 ends, the guys then put in a tremendous effort over the last 4 ends and we actually won all the last 6 ends to pick up 7 shots and turn a three shot deficit into a brilliant 4 shot win to reach the final.
In the final we had to play Norfolk who won by the same score of 4 to beat Devon. There were no changes in our side as Graham had won his semi final and had to play the Mixed Pairs Final at the same time.
We had a very positive start and moved into a 13 shot lead after 4 ends and held the lead until the 13th end when Norfolk drew level and you could sense that this was going to go down to the wire. After 17 ends Norfolk had taken the advantage by 3 shots, but we were not going to give in and after 20 ends had been played we were back in front, but unfortunately we lost 7 shots over the last end to lose by 4 shots.
Obviously when you reach the final both the players and myself were disappointed to lose, but on reflection they were all winners in my eyes, to get out of a tough group section and then have a great win over Berkshire in the quarters, to then have a fantastic close win in the semi over Leicestershire and lose to such a small margin against a good Norfolk side in the final was a brilliant performance combined with a great team spirit. The selectors and myself are very proud to be looking after a great bunch of guys.
On a personal note I was also very proud to be watching my two sons Steve & Mike skipping together in a Middleton Cup Final. I don’t think we lost the final and I don’t think Norfolk won it, it could have gone either way, however as team manager, watching is definitely much harder and I would rather have been out on the green playing.
Dave Snell – Wiltshire Middleton Cup Team Manager