Fields look for record, Highley look for positive start, Hanmer aim to make most of reprieve
Tonight marks the start of the Salop Leisure Shropshire Premier Bowling League, and each team will hope they aren’t caught cold! Reigning champions Castlefields start their defence at neighbours Meole Brace, hoping to match the consecutive wins record of 14 league games set by St Georges in 2001 and Chester Road in 2005. They also have the added incentive of having lost by just 2 chalks there last season and will want to put that right. Vice-captain Graham Rogers says “well it’s the start of another season and it’s our local rivals Meole Brace first up away. The boys are really looking forward to the game after last season’s poor performance there, it was probably our worst performance all season! Meole have made signings this year so we will have to be at our best to get a result, it’s always a lively game on and off the green but we will be up for it come Wednesday night. Good luck to everybody for the new season.” Meole will be looking for a repeat of that 10-4 win last season which will mean their first win since July. Skipper Andy Wigginton says “all the lads are ready to go even though kind of strange to play the first game on a Wednesday but hope it brings a decent crowd to watch. The game itself is probably a coin toss on outcome and weather could play a part one way or another. I think we will need to be in front first four to produce a win against a quality side and firm favourites for the title. But we will be going out there to enjoy it win or lose just like any other game this year.” Newport are the team who have made the biggest signings this season, adding Stuart Clee, Josh Bradburn, Ayden Smith and Dave Lloyd over the Winter, and will want a good start over an Ifton side who generally struggle there. It also does depend on what side Ifton get out on a Wednesday too as they look for a good start to get a mid table place. Sir John Bayley finished third last season and will be looking to challenge again as they start with a home tie against Wem USC, with recent signing Ash Gregory straight into the side. Wem had a fantastic season last year and will want to match that again with a good start to their away form, where they impressed so much in the second half of last season. Hanwood are another team tipped to challenge at the top and know an away win at Chester Road is what is needed to be able to mount a serious challenge. Chester Road had a poor season at home last year, and if they want a top 10 place they will need to improve on that a lot. Captain Paul Fowles knows “it is a very tough start against a good team. They are dark horse for the league we will have to be on our game but we are looking forward to it.”
Highley start their maiden season in the league with a trip to fellow South Shropshire side Burway. Joint captain Ben Dixon comments “me and the whole of squad are super excited and aim to hit floor running. We’ve had tough selection issues and gone with a mixture of strength and those that got us there. We plan on giving everyone a chance to prove their worth and compete in every game home and away and I think we will travel well but a new test for half the squad! Enjoy it is the first expectation and play as a team on and off the green, but to not let ourselves down is the main expectation. We have a good team and some top players, and if we perform to our best we won’t be anywhere near relegation places. Confidence is the key and that comes with results, so let’s get the first 3/4 weeks out the way with 3 away games out of the first 4 and see where we’re at.” On facing their first trip to a green they wouldn’t have played in the Mid Shropshire League, he commented “they have a mixture of results at home so it’s hard to say how we will do but we’ve got 5 or 6 who have played it before. It’s always a little bit of the unknown, some have got 5 or 6 winners there, some others have not been so lucky and got 1 in the past. So let’s get the first one on the board and then look for a higher figure if possible.” Burway have new leadership in Jesse James and Ben Allen, and will want to take advantage of the team with least knowledge of their green and get their home form up and running like it has been in the past. Hanmer were reprieved after losing to Highley in last season’s play-off but know the task in front of them to avoid another play-off in October. Skipper Dave Ellison knows “we have been given a reprieve after last season and tend to make the most of it. We start at St Georges away and will be looking to get some away points on the board followed by another tricky game at Sir John Bayley.” St Georges have added youth in with Aaron King and Rob Roden preparing to make their debuts for the club, and know better home form is key to being able to challenge the top three. Bylet and Wrockwardine Wood had great seasons last year, with Bylet’s their best ever in the league, and both will want to at least match or improve on that this season. Both teams have made a single signing, and will hope they will hit the ground running on the first night.