Lancashire squeezed into a title showdown with Sussex for the English Senior Men’s County Championship after a dramatic second day’s play at Stanton-on-the-Wolds Golf Club.
The Northerners were held to a draw by a resurgent Dorset team, who bounced back in style after a heavy defeat on the opening day. Meanwhile, Sussex kept up their winning ways with a 5.5-3.5 win over the host county, Nottinghamshire.
The results so far give Sussex two wins from two matches and means they head into tomorrow’s finale knowing that a halved result will be enough to claim the trophy for the first time. For Lancashire, with one win and one half as they pursue their third title, it’s a simple case of win or fail.
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Today, Lancashire had to pull out all the stops after Dorset threatened to derail their progress. The South West champions took 2.5 points from the three morning foursomes, claiming the first one comfortably (5/4) and then holding their nerve to win another the last and finally to snatch a half, having been three down after 12.
Dorset kept up the pressure in the singles, notably over the front nine, and Lancashire needed all their determination and experience to force the half.
The first two singles results were both comfortable wins, with each county in turn taking a point. Then it was time for grit. Lancashire’s Tony Flanagan and Tony Holt both trailed over the front nine, both pulled it back, both edged ahead, and both were finally held to halved results by their Dorset opponents, respectively David Barton and Ashley Beckett.
It gave Dorset a guaranteed half in the match and Lancashire depended on a strong finish. It was delivered by British Senior Champion Trevor Foster (4/2) and his immediate predecessor, Bryan Hughes, (1up).
Team captain Mike Gray commented: “This wasn’t what we wanted but the fightback means we are still in it and nothing has changed: we need to win tomorrow to win the championship.”
Dorset captain Phil Addis was delighted with his team’s comeback. “Yesterday we just didn’t get out of the starting block, but today the lads have done us proud and, for a small county like Dorset, this is a great result.”
In the other match Sussex continued their impressive progress – both in this championship and in their season as a whole. They’ve reached the finals of two other major senior events which will be played over coming weeks.
But their focus tomorrow is Lancashire. Sussex captain Rick Thomas remarked: “It’s all to play for, against tough opposition. It won’t be a walk in the park, but we’re delighted to be part of this and to have this opportunity.”
Sussex have looked confident and composed throughout this event, today holding off the challenge of the Nottinghamshire side.
They led 2-1 after the foursomes, but were quickly caught in the singles when Nottinghamshire’s Ian Gretton sped off to win 7/6.
Sussex edged ahead again with Martin Galway’s 3/2 win, but almost immediately Nottinghamshire’s Charles Banks answered him. Banks continued his unbeaten record with his 2/1 win, which featured an impressive birdie on the very difficult 16th green.
But Mark Logan got up and down on the last to grab a half for Sussex and take the pressure off Thomas’s nerves, before the win was confirmed by Steve Graham and Malcolm Cawte.
“Things felt a lot better after that half,” said Thomas. “All the games were tight and all had moments when they could have gone either way, but we managed to get the points.”
Tomorrow’s matches are Dorset v Nottinghamshire and Sussex v Lancashire.