Warwickshire v Northamptonshire
Warwickshire’s final Premier Division fixture of the season in the BDO Inter County Championships was on paper a winnable home tie against Northamptonshire who were newly promoted this season, but it didn’t quite turn out that way.
As the ladies ‘B’ got their game underway it was the visiting team that got the better start as Suzanne Smith beat Marian Conway 3-0 and Faye Mason doubled their lead with her 3-1 win over Helen Rigg after Rigg had won the first leg.
It took a lady of the match performance from Nina Bolt to stop the Northamptonshire charge, Nina winning in three straight legs against Gail Fullthorpe with a tidy 19.78 average.
The away side had their two games buffer restored when Debbie Dexter won 3-0 against Melanie Jones and appeared to be on the way to putting the score beyond Warwickshire’s reach when Sara Rose won the opener against Kat Spanswick but the home player stuck to her guns and battled away for a 3-1 win.
A 3-3 draw was achieved in the final game as Chloe McKivett made short work of Sandra Simmonds with a 3-0 result to give her team their fourth draw of the campaign.
After losing the first leg to Simon Almey James Hykin gave the home team’s ‘B’ side a 1-0 start when he went on to win the tie 4-1. The cheers were short lived however as Northamptonshire then rattled off four wins in a row as Liam Fox beat Simon Fairbrother 4-1 then Ross Macken, Christian Shipley and Lukey Smith in turn won 4-2 against David Hill, Gareth Braham and Adam Paxton.
As in the ladies ‘B’ game it took an award winning game to stop the rot and turning it on for the men’s ‘B’ was Karl Reynolds. Reynolds lost the first leg to Graham Roberts then went 3-1 up in 19,19 and 18 darts. Roberts reduced the arrears in the fifth with a 17 darts leg only to see Karl Reynolds wrap up his 4-2 win in with a great fifteen darts leg and take the team award for his 26.18 average.
Going into the second half Warwickshire were trailing 4-2, that was reduced to 4-3 when Mark Carter accounted for Chuck Scott with a 4-3 scoreline. Carter had gone from 1-0 and 2-1 up to trailing 3-2 before winning the last two legs.
Duane Small (Northamptonshire) won the eighth against Mark Strong 4-0 but by the tenth game it was all square as Carl Green won 4-2 against Paul Shepherd and Tom Martin beat Shane Prowse by the same 4-2 margin.
In the penultimate game Northamptonshire’s Andrew John Regan raced into a 3-0 lead against Jack Wareing and although Wareing pegged him back to 3-3 it was Regan who won the decider to put the away team within one more game of victory.
On at number twelve for Warwickshire was Robert Comben, his opponent Joshua Richardson. Comben won the opening two legs in 23 and 19 darts and with two further wins both in 21 darts he won 4-0 and took the final score to 6-6.
Warwickshire’s ladies ‘A’ were going into the final game of the season without a win after recording four draws and four defeats from their previous eight fixtures. Wendy Adams gave them a great start when she won 3-2 against Rebecca Barrow, Barrow coming from 2-0 down to level terms before Adams won the decider.
A 3-1 win over Caroline Pike by Angela Barrow levelled the score and with a 3-2 success for Jo Johnson over Donna Pinch Northamptonshire had reversed the advantage.
With an impressive five lady of the match awards from the eight games played Sue Gulliver (Warwickshire) was on at number four. Sue won the opening leg against Jacky White and despite White squaring the game in the second Sue Gulliver then won the third and fourth for a 3-1 win and at the same time make it six match awards for the season with her super 21.80 average.
With the game level at two each a 3-1 win for Rebecca Rose over Natalie Gilbert gave the away team the lead once again and with Sharon Tompkins beating Angela Jones 3-0 in the final game the 4-2 result went to Northamptonshire.
After losing the curtain raiser to the season away to the mighty Yorkshire the men’s ‘A’ team then recorded seven consecutive wins and irrespective of the outcome against Northamptonshire had enjoyed a very successful season.
The first half of the match saw all six games go in favour of the first throw advantage with Ricky Evans giving the visitors the early lead when he won 4-3 against Ian McFarlane after McFarlane had fought back magnificently from 3-0 down to 3-3.
Steve Giddings was Warwickshire’s first winner when he beat Jason Lovell 4-1 only to see Northamptonshire forge ahead again for a second time in the third when Joshua Richardson won 4-1 against Dean Stewart.
Andy Tee took the opening leg against Ian Shaw but it was the hosts Shaw who won the following four to win 4-1 and level the game for a second time.
David Walker was Northamptonshire’s third winner, a 4-0 result over Jamie Atkins before Noel Grant took the score to three each at the midway point with his 4-3 win over Mark Stanley after Stanley had gone 2-0 and 3-2 up.
The sequence was broken as early as the first game of the second half when Warwickshire’s in-form player Nigel Heydon handed out a 4-0 defeat to Martin Biggs in winning legs of 16,11,23 and 14 darts for a magnificent man of the match average of 31.31 and at the same time give his team the lead for the first time in the game.
Tom Aldridge added to the score making it 5-3 to the home team when he also won 4-0 against Ben Goodger The next three games all went down to the wire with all three 4-3 results going to the away side. Daniel Wheatley, Tony Littleton and Chris Jones beating respective opponents Kevin Dowling, Antony Allen and Charlie Symons to put not only their men’s ‘A’ team within an ace of victory but also ensuring they got the overall result for the weekend.
The final game of the weekend between Steve Hine (Warwickshire) and Stephen Tompkins swayed one way then the other as Hine went 2-0 up then 3-2 down but with wins in the last two legs got the 4-3 verdict and earned a 6-6 draw for his team.
The overall result was 19-17 to Northamptonshire with Warwickshire finishing the season emulating last season’s placing of fifth in the table on 173 points three fewer than last season.
What a season Warwickshire’s Nigel Heydon has had in the Premier Division of the BDO Inter County Championships, playing nine and winning nine in what is the toughest league in the world. Not only did Nigel win all of his games he also finished top of the men’s ‘A’ average table.
In addition to his achievement Nigel Heydon capped off a fantastic week by being named in the Five Man England team for the Six Nations event in Holland on the 21-23rd June, the other four players being Scott Mitchell, Daniel Day, Paul Milford and Martin Atkins.