Fed league Division 5 – Our first season
First up for the Airedale and Wharfedale district were the previous season’s Champion of Champions Swadlincote. This looked like it was going to be the hardest game but turned out differently. We had 6 winners away, the best of which were Mick Hall (21-8) and Gary Whelan (21-12) and we drew the aggregate 214-214. At Guiseley we had 9 winners and won the aggregate by 50 meaning a overall 22-10 win and a fantastic start on our federation debut. Best winners at home were Dave Rankin (21-7) and Colin Rhodes (21-9).
The second match was against Doncaster ‘A’ who had 12 bowlers from the previous seasons Div 1 champions. At Shipley Club our home team had 6 winners, best being Cliff Taylor and Neil Nicholson (both 21-12). We won the aggregate by 12 but in the away leg we only had 3 winners, best David Kirkbright (21-8) and Chris Hight (21-11) and lost the aggregate by 46 meaning a final result of a 21-11 loss.
The 3rd game was against South Lakes, the away team had a journey to sunny Morecambe. We carded 6 winners, best of which were Ryan Benson (21-9) and Gary Whelan (21-13), and won the aggregate by 6. The home game was played at Yeadon Park where we could only manage 5 winners, Mick Upton the best winning to 6. We lost the aggregate by 19. The scoring system of 2 points for each aggregate (home and away) and 4 points for the overall aggregate proves how vital it is to win the aggregate. We lost the game 19-13. If we could have turned our heaviest loss at home into a win we would have won the match 20-12, a massive difference.
Our last match was against Bolton ‘A’. We needed 14 points to avoid relegation. The home game at Rufford saw a convincing victory with 10 winners, best of which were John Benson (21-7), Ryan Benson and Joe Stockdale (21-8). Away from home though we didn’t card a single winner and we lost the game 20-12 and were relegated.
We then took a team over to the FederationTeam Knockout Competition at Harehill Park in Littleborough, Rochdale . We were drawn in a group including Mid-Cheshire (1st div Champions), Middleton (4th Div champions) and Bolton who were also a couple of leagues above us. In the first game Aire-Wharfe played Bolton and all the team bowled well to record a 6-2 win. Mid-Cheshire & Middleton drew 4-4. In the second game we beat Middleton 5-3 with last man on Cliff Taylor just losing to 20. Mid Cheshire beat Bolton 6-2. So it was all on the last game against 1st Division champions Mid- Cheshire, who got off to a flyer carding the first 3 winners. Cliff Taylor dug in at the end, and this time he was on the right side of 21-20 result. 3-1 to Cheshire, and overall that put them 1 point up on us, so we needed 3 winners out of last four to go through. Mick Hall won to 9. John Preston & Chris Hight were then 18-16 & 17-10 up respectively, whilst Neil Nicholson was struggling at 16-12 with his excellent striking keeping him in the game up to that point. Neil then got a nice run together to get to 19-16 up, but the Mid-Cheshire lads in the other two games were beginning their fightbacks also. JP couldn’t manage another chalk and was beaten 21-18, meaning AW had to win last two games on the green to go through to the Semi-Finals. Neil’s opponent got back in at 16-19 and with a further two singles made it 19-19 across, meanwhile Chris Hight’s opponent was clawing his way back across the middle with some superb leading, and at 17-20 down Chris looked beaten. But two good bowls after he was left about a foot of room brought Chris to 19-20. A front toucher by Neil’s oponent got the Mid-Cheshire lads cheering, and with Neil leaving his first bowl a yard short, he went 2 down with another good bowl. Neil had to strike, but his own bowl was blocking the target and for the first time in the game Neil missed to give Mid-Cheshire their second winner. Chris was then laid two for game, before his opponent bowled in a great bowl to confirm the win for Mid-Cheshire.
The team looked great in every game in their new blue shirts, thanks to the league. We had a minibus to get to all the away games and managed to keep subs down to £6 per player. In total we used 33 players. Only Danny Carter player won all 4 games. The highest average was Dave Rankin (+6.6). 4 players won 3 out of 4 games, Gary Whelan, David Kirkbright, Ryan Benson and Richard Stockdale. I feel the players learned a lot from this season’s matches, we have a great team spirit and have a good mixture of youth and experience.
We look forward to next season and building on the foundations we have set.
On a really sad note, our president and very good friend Ian Forder passed after the end of the season. He played a massive part in us entering the league and will be sadly missed. RIP Ian.