Had you been taking a stroll along Poulton Road last week, you might have spotted a strange misshapen silhouette upon the car park of the Strawberry Gardens.
What could it be? Maybe it is a stunted oak, or a gnarled gibbet, or even an extravagant horse dropping, eroded by the bitter east wind?
Could it be a statue of Charles Laughton? That fearsome hump, those twisted legs, the shoulder dropping to the wonky knee as the agonised head wrenches uncomfortably upward. Could it be the hunchback himself, frozen forever by the sculptor’s art?
Alas, it is none of the aforementioned. In reality it is my disgusting disfigured body that confronts you. For I have just finished my first session upon the bowling green since stepping off the green sward for the last time back in August.
Indeed, had Fotheringay not turned up to collect me in the Silver Cloud, I might easily have become a permanent topographical conundrum, fit to rank alongside Stonehenge and the leaning Tower of Pisa.
How easy does the darts player have it by comparison? Arm in, arm out, four steps forward, four steps back. Even Piltdown Man could have managed that.
Alas, for the crown green bowler, things are much more complicated. Legs too long, back too straight, eyes to the front rather than on top of the head. Little wonder that I spent most of last week looking back between my knees as I hobbled around. But with only five weeks of the current darts campaign remaining what else is a bloke to do as summer crawls ever nearer?
But still, there is everything to play for upon the oches of the port as the winter campaign builds to a thrilling climax, especially as top two Dockers ‘A’ and the Cons are gearing up to play each other in this Friday’s epic clash on Preston Street.
Whilst we await the outcome of that seismic encounter, the two teams sitting in third and fourth place respectively are delivering a magnificent aperitif this week, as Highbury ‘A’ take on the Mount in a must win fixture for both teams.
And it is the visitors who make the brightest start, with Andy Parry Jones edging past the challenge of Ray Connolly by the narrowest of margins in the opening game. And even though merit leader Scott Hayton finishes in style against Steve Riley in game two, still does his opponent have enough left in the locker to snatch a draw with his final arrow.
Pretty soon things are beautifully juxtaposed as John Shaw smashes through the defences of Jimmy Reilly in game three, the status quo then shattered in favour of the home team as Mark Thwaites bangs in a 152 opener at the start of his ten darts mauling of Brian Bond as the contest reaches its halfway point.
A second shared experience kicks off the second period, with Robert Job and Dave Coulborn punching each other to a standstill in the febrile atmosphere. Finally, the home side open upon a two leg advantage in game six, as Carl Simey continues his ever burgeoning purple patch with a crucial victory over the dangerous Pete Jackson.
Into the penultimate leg and back bounce the Mount courtesy of Cavan Thake at the end of an edgy encounter with Eddie Miller to leave the score reading 4-3 in favour of the home side. There is much nail biting and brow furrowing in the final leg of the match as home skipper Chris Job and Rob Saunders go toe to toe upon the oche.
At last Chris goes out on 86 to leave Rob needing to locate his finishing double with either of his first two darts. Heartbreakingly for the Mount player, it takes three to bring the curtain down on a fantastic contest, a third shared experience not quite enough to save his side from suffering the narrowest of defeats in the cruellest of circumstances.
Meanwhile, table toppers Dockers ‘A’ are cruising to an emphatic 7-1 victory in deepest Thornton. Skipper Paul McCann hits a 160 opener for the visitors in the opening leg, albeit that Mark Shewan is judged to be the best of best with his emphatic victory later in the contest.
Cannonball Carnall is a solitary success story for the Ashley on Friday, as they return to terra firma with a mighty crash seven days on from their remarkable win over Deaduns, for whom the misery continues this week with a 6-2 defeat away to defending champions the Fleetwood Cons.
Elsewhere, the Collapsible Comrades secure an excellent 6-2 victory upon Beach Road against a resolute Queens Hotel outfit. A 102 outshot by Jonathan Bridge is the cherry on the Collapsible cake this week, with Mike Lovell deservedly delighted after delivering a mortal blow to the individual title aspirations of Stan Billington for the home side.
Highbury ‘B’ manage to comfortably avoid losing for the second time this season with a 6-2 victory upon Upper Lune Street against the Bowling Ladies. Andy Helsby is emphatically back to his best for the visitors, with skipperess Trish Hughes a tungsten titan for the discombobulated babes.
The Biased Boys record another excellent win on Friday; a hat trick of wins for Arthur Armstrong, Les Ivison and man of the match Steve Stanhope taking them safely across the winning line, this before Steve Gray belatedly takes to the stage for the Orientals when all is already lost.
Also securing a 5-3 win on the road this week are the Fuzzy Ducks, Mark Wilson delivering the points with victory in the final encounter of the contest. A ten darter by Graham Hopkinson is the star in the firmament for the Strawberry, with Jimmy Pilling admirably accurate for the chastened cricketers.
Our final fixture this week takes place on Preston Street, as the Blyth Spirits welcome the Blasted Heathens to town. Mitch Blyth hits a 177 en route to an eight darter for the home side ahead of his debut for the town team on Sunday. Alas, all his efforts count for naught at the end, as a brace of wafer thin wins for Chris Garton and Al Morley, plus a mighty 133 finish for Gaz Whitehead sees the Taverners come up on the rails to snatch both points from the grasp of their shell shocked hosts.
On Sunday, the town team welcome Chorley to the port in their latest Super League encounter. Wins for Adam Blyth, Mark Shewan, Paul Dagger, Carl Miles and Martyn Black secure a valuable draw for Fleetwood against top notch opposition.
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