Yorkshire and defending champions Gloucestershire are battling it out at the top of the leaderboard after the second day of the English Women’s County Finals at Delamere Forest in Cheshire.
2017 champions, Yorkshire, currently have the edge on points after beating Buckinghamshire 8-1 on the first day and then following that up with a last gasp 5-4 victory over Norfolk. That leaves them just half a point ahead of their rivals heading into the third day of this five-day event.
Yorkshire made their intentions clear right from the start when Hannah Holden and Nicola Slater, Melissa Wood and Deb Henery and Evie Cooke and Beth Norton all won their foursomes matches but they soon found themselves in a real battle against their spirited Norfolk opponents.
The first two singles were shared when Yorkshire’s Lily Hirst beat Norfolk’s Chloe Gibbs 2 & 1 and Norfolk’s Abigail O’Riordan beat Yorkshire’s Mia Eales-Smith by the same score and the win by O’Riordan started at run of four successive Norfolk wins with Joanne Herd, Eve Neild and Tiffany Mills also producing points before Wood sealed her team’s narrow victory with a 2 & 1 win over Imogen Leeder.
Yorkshire Captain, Heather Muir, was philosophical after the team’s close win: ” Every match is tight. All the games between the players rest of tiny little things happening. At this level, at Women’s County Finals, there’s no easy matches and you have to change your team around as best you can to try and make sure everybody’s fit and ready to play all the time.
“It’s easy to win when everything is going well and everyone in your team is up, but you really learn how your players can respond when things look bad and how often do they actually come through. My team do this and they rescue holes from what look like impossible situations – it’s not very good for my heart rate but it’s great for the team!”
Gloucestershire have no intention of giving up the title without a fight and after beating Norfolk 6-3 on the opening day they maintained their one hundred percent record with a 6 ½ – 2 ½ win over Surrey.
The 2018 champions got off to the best possible start when Claudia Ovens and Ebonie Lewis, Ffion Tynan and Issy Hopkins and Bethan Popel and Alex Saunders all won their foursomes matches before Hopkins, Sam Round and Lewis also contributed points in the singles. Olivia Horsford and Lottie Woad claimed points for Surrey when they beat Jess Brown and Grace Connelly respectively while Canice Screene halved with Popel.
Buckinghamshire collected their first win of the Finals when they beat Lincolnshire 7-2.
On the previous day, Lincolnshire recovered from losing the foursomes 3-0 to beat Surrey 5-4 but there was no similar reprieve this time. They were again whitewashed in the morning and then also lost the first two singles 5 & 4 when first Indian Clyburn went down to Alice Kozlowsky and then Billie-Jo Smith was beaten by Thalia Kirby. Ellise Rymer did pull a point back with a 3 & 2 victory over Grace Rigby-Walden but Rosie Bee Kim and Olivia Lee extended Buckinghamshire’s advantage before Helen McDougall earned a consolation point for Lincolnshire with a 6&5 win over Susanna Mitterer.
“The difference was that our girls managed the greens a lot better today,” said the Buckinghamshire team captain, Gail Sharp. “They were leaving a lot of putts short, or just missing the hole yesterday, whereas today a lot more putts were dropping and generally they seemed more relaxed.
“You really have to take each day as it comes,” she added. “We don’t think it’s this or that county we’re playing. We want to get a lot of girls playing, we have the biggest team, we have 12 players. We don’t want anyone sitting around twiddling their thumbs so it’s a question of working out who is playing well with whom and making changes for the foursomes and singles.”
Day three of the event sees Yorkshire play against Surrey while Gloucestershire take on Lincolnshire. Buckinghamshire face Norfolk in the other match.
Caption: Melissa Wood secured a late point for Yorkshire to earn their second victory (pic courtesy of Leaderboard Photography)