Two Horse Race Too Close to Call

As we enter the final furlong of a season-long two horse race Marown A just have their nose in front of Oncan A, who have come from behind in recent weeks to be within striking distance going into the closing stages. Both teams have been so evenly matched all season and whilst Marown made all of the running early on Onchan have fought for their lives to be ominously close, just two points adrift with two games to play. Neither team gave and inch last week matching each others results as they both picked up strong 9-1 home wins, with the challengers seeing off Ballaugh A and the perennial champions taking down North Ramsey A.

It is more about what lies ahead than what they have left behind them, and whilst they should not forget about what it has taken to get them here, what’s done is done. They must now focus on finishing off the closest title race for years which is almost certainly going down to the wire to be decided by a photo finish. With no games this week there is a rare chance to catch our breath and look at what lies ahead when we resume a week today.

Onchan have the chance to seize the initiative a week on Monday as they travel away to face Ballaugh A, as Marown sit out. Barring the biggest upset since David beat Goliath they will return to the top and will be looking to heap the pressure onto Marown, prior to sitting out themselves the following week. The Crosby men will then have the unenviable task of a trip to South Ramsey A to try and undo any damage done by Peter Slinger’s side.

These two fixtures are vital and will probably decide the fate of the championship trophy. If Marown can come out of them at worst level I think they should be able to finish off a successful campaign away at Castletown B on the Wednesday, with the champions heading up north to Ramsey to take on South, who are scrapping for the highly coveted third spot. That said Marown’s game will be far from a formality against a tenacious town B side who will be fighting for their top flight survival. It really is too close to call and which ever team ends up on top a week on Wednesday will be worthy champions, and this will without doubt have been the closest title race in over a decade.

South Ramsey still occupy third place but only by a solitary point after they slipped up at home to a fast finishing Castletown A side 7-3. It is a brilliant result for Town and with three games left they will now be odds on favourites to overtake the northerners, who have by far the hardest run in of any team in the league. In fact South will do well to hang onto fourth place as Douglas A found the form that had eluded them in recent weeks to beat Port St Mary A 8-2 and close the gap between themselves and third to just five points.

It is below Douglas where things get interesting with only seven points separating the remaining six teams, and a big slip up by any of them could cost them their first division status. Nobles Mixed had a great result away at Castletown B picking up a 6-4 win, but as the only team in the relegation fight with only two games left I fear it could be a case of too little too late. Just like the top the relegation race is too close to call, but if I had to stick my neck out I think Mixed and Peel A will fall just short of survival.

The battle for second division honours has been just as hard fought all season and Port Erin A put in a breathtaking display to pick up a maximum 10-0 win over Finch Hill B to give themselves some breathing space at the top. Second placed Port St Mary B are only three points behind however after they beat Douglas B 7-3. Port St Mary definitely have the harder run in as they still have to host Port Erin in their penultimate game before a dangerous trip to Finch Hill A, so I think Port Erin A will see the title out, as long as they avoid a large defeat in the looming top of the table clash.

Castletown C, Finch Hill A and Onchan B come next in the table and mathematically they all have a chance of promotion after good wins last week. It will probably take a massive slip up from Port B to open the door for them, but if they keep winning and winning big you just never know. Relegation in this division is not so closely fought with Port St Mary C and Peel C all but down at the bottom as the closest team to them is some 18 points above the drop zone.

The third division is also getting very interesting at the top. League leaders Noble Park A lost 7-3 at home to third place Onchan B but remain at the summit despite second placed North Ramsey B putting in a gargantuan performance to beat Nobles Park B 10-0. This maximum closes North to within just two points of Park and with both teams still to go head to head its still all to play for. Onchan are only five points behind the Ramsey outfit so promotion is not out of the question, however I think it will now prove difficult. I am going to throw it out there and tip North Ramsey B to win the title in the inaugural season in league bowls with Park to finish second.

Report by Mark Kneen