Bowls: York clash marks start of tricky run for Souths

The cut and thrust of the Yorkshire County Indoor League is back this weekend, with South Leeds going head to head against last year's play-off kings, York and District.

With South Leeds not distracted by the National Denny Cup or Plate competitions this season, the 16 bowlers under the leadership of Mark Hughes really need to put their first match defeat behind them if they

are to challenge in the league this year.

The club is now entering its most difficult period of games this winter. Not only do they have to face up to the challenge of last year's overall play-off champions, they face a January programme that takes in games against Thornaby and Featherstone.

The 14-4 defeat to Scarborough way back in October may have put South Leedson the back foot, but the side have registered wins against York, Thornaby and Featherstone in previous terms.

Two wins from those three games should put them in a positive position in terms of staving off relegation to Division Two.

However, even with an England junior international elect in their ranks, that requirement may be a tall ask as both York and Featherstone are progressing nicely in the National team competitions and Thornaby have rattled the Leeds bowlers more than once in the past.

These are the type of games that a previous South Leeds side could have lost 18-0 or won 12-6.

The problem is that this side, with a couple of additions from the old

Barnsley Metrodome set up, and missing more of the old guard as each season passes, haven't really played enough this winter to know what they are capable of.

The four points secured in the loss to Scarborough still came at a cost of a -16 shot difference.

Against York they will need to take four points from just their home leg, preferably all six as the difference in greens – York's surface is a good two or three seconds faster – regularly catches visiting bowlers out.

With Hughes away, there will still be some understanding within the ranks of playing regularly on different surfaces, but the bulk of his side will only consistently play on their own patch.

Any points they pick up in York will be a bonus, all the points they pick up in Leeds are a necessity.

Though there has only been one game played in Division One so far this season, the top half and the bottom half are unlikely to change too dramatically over the coming months.

And South Leeds will no doubt be looking at how seriously Hull take their final Yorkshire League campaign.

With their venue shutting, and the club ceasing to exist come March, there has been a feeling for a couple of years that the heart hasn't always been in the fight of the east coast side.

Our local bowlers need to keep at least one side between them and Hull, in terms of ensuring that they are not dragged down through the vortex left by the departing side.

Hull face Thornaby this time around. Thornaby are the sort of side that languish near the bottom for the first couple of games then find some form through the latter half of the winter months, often when the local Middlesbrough Football Club have hit a bad patch and the members choose bowls over another game of football!

South Leeds will also do well to keep their eyes on Redcar, who are playing in the first division for the first time in a good few years.

Promoted last year, those that come up are more often than not one of the favourites to go straight back down again.

They also lost 14-4, to York, in the first game of the season and only shot difference currently keeps them above South Leeds.

Redcar play Scarborough this weekend, a side that regularly beat them in Division Two, and South Leeds and Redcar face up to each other in the penultimate game of the season.

A lot of points are there to be won and lost between now and then, but the local bowlers will hope to be safe before that fixture.

The other game this weekend is the West Yorkshire derby between Huddersfield and Featherstone. Featherstone were the only side to secure an 18-0 win last time out, with their inter-county rivals securing a close 12-6 victory for themselves.

The Hebden Trophy team are also in action this weekend, with a game home and away against Scarborough.

The side enjoyed an impressive win against Hornsea last time out, a result that should have lifted them off the bottom to a respectable mid-table position.