Fields face tough opener, Wellington & North Shropshire Derbies
Castlefields face a tough start to their 9th title defence as they travel to Hanwood in Gameweek 1 of the 25th season of the Salop Leisure Shropshire Premier Bowling League. Hanwood have made some big signings over the Winter with Colin Beaman, Darren Wellings and Craig Wilson all making the trip over from neighbours Meole Brace, and are many people’s tip for dark horses. But Castlefields have made their own key signings, with Keith Wall returning and Jon Palmer back from his ban. Captain Alan Peach says “we’ve got a good squad and we’re a bit stronger than last year with Keith Wall returning and Jon Palmer joining. Keith’s been away for a few years but he’s a good player. I would rather he played for us than against us. Jon is another good player, a county player with Warwick & Worcester, and he’s made himself available for all our games.” Alan will be aware of the threat that Hanwood posess. “Hanwood will be a lot stronger. It’s a tough place to go, a tough start against a good team, but we’ll just try and do our best there.” Hanwood joint captain Mark Shore knows it will be a real test for his team. “As opening games go they don’t get much tougher than the champions visiting you. We have had a few warm up games and the new signings are getting to grips with the green. We expect a real tough battle against our tip for the title. Much has changed at Hanwood in the last 12 months and that is thanks to Bill and Ursula Longmore for securing our club’s future and the hard work of the community in Hanwood. Bill won’t be at our game tomorrow but I hope we do him proud and I can visit him Saturday with a positive match report.” On Hanwood’s ambitions this season, “I’m hoping we can make the top three but budging out Castlefields, Newport or the Bayley is going to be difficult.”
Sir John Bayley finished just 5 points off Castlefields last season, and have made three new signings to try and make up that deficit. However the loss of Paul Reeves and possibly Alex Jones will leave a hole, but joint captain Chris Worthington says “I believe we are stronger this year. We’re going to the Bowring for a win and happy to be the league underdogs.” This is a re-run of last year’s opening fixture, with the Bayley getting 5 from 6-0 down, but Bowring have also made signings of their own with Adam Patrick, Jack Whitehead, Jack Hill and Martin Gaut all adding more youth to an already young side. Jamie King captains the side again after earning their highest ever finish last season. ” We’ve got a full strength team, greens looking good, lads are looking forward to the game and a
local derby to start the season, the same fixture as last year! Doesn’t get much bigger. We know they have a good squad and did well last year but we have improved the squad and will be hoping for a good home win to start the season.” Newport are another team to make big signings, with Paul Reeves and Tom Langford arriving, and Dave Rhodes back playing after his injury last season. They travel to Meole Brace, who have big hit the hardest over the Winter with four key players leaving. Captain Andy Wigginton has a tough task of stabilising the side, and know they will have a tough start with Newport having got 7 winners there last season.
There is a North Shropshire derby to kick off proceedings with Chester Road hosting Hanmer. Hanmer did the double over Chester Road, and have made some signings to try and kick on from their 10th place finish last season. Dave Ellison skippers again, and says “a local derby to kick off and after last season’s fixture we will be looking to get 4 on a green most of us knows. A couple of debuts tonight for us due to illness and unavailability and we are looking forward to a great game against our local rivals.” Chester Road have not been able to make any signings despite Paul Fowles’ best efforts. “I asked one or two of the locals but they weren’t interested and thought it was a lot of travelling for a Friday night. We hope we can get off to a good start but they beat us last year. So they will fancy their chances of getting off to a good start, but it is up to us to improve this year so looking for a good start.” The other North Shropshire club Wem USC are trying their best to move away from finishing bottom like last year with the signings of Steve Cox, Pete Bound, Carl Preece and Curtis Metcalfe. Scott Thomas is the new captain but they have a tough start away at St Georges. St Georges themselves have lost a couple of key players in Glyn Picknell and Mike Wainwright having a season off but are boosted by the return of John Cooke and the signing of Nick Wyer. They will want to make the top green a fortress again and know that Wem don’t have the best of records up there. Ifton had a very poor season last year and Dickie Jones needs to arrest the slide and try and get back to the 3rd placed finish back in 2015. They face a long trip though down to Burway who themselves will want to try and make that break through into the top 6. They had a great home record last season and will need to keep that going to give themselves a chance of that break through. The final game of the opening night sees Wrockwardine Wood host Bylet. The Wrockites are back under the leadership of Stuart Clee, who was close to a top four finish with them in 2015. They have made some good signings themselves with the two Bodleys adding to their Staffordshire contingent, and will want a good start to the season as they know their home form will be key. But Bylet did win there two years ago, and with another addition in Simon Rhodes, an ex-wrockite along with Rob Fuller and Scott Harries, they may fancy of causing a shock once again.
Salop Leisure and the League would like to wish all clubs and players the very best of luck this season!
Gameweek 1 Fixtures:
Bowring v SJB
Hanwood v Castlefields
Chester Road v Hanmer
Burway v Ifton
Wrockwardine Wood v Bylet
St Georges v Wem USC
Meole Brace v Newport