Bellsburn came into The Co-operative Funeralcare sponsored Inter County Top Ten Tournament as minnows but the first time West Lothian champions continue to grow in stature and win number three at the weekend saw them secure a place in the semi finals.
Concerns over the long and early morning journey to take on Argyll & Bute champions Campbeltown were consigned to the rubbish bin as Bellsburn quickly found their legs and produced a strong team performance to beat the locals, 6-2. Wins in the Triples, Fours, and Pairs were all inspired by unexpectedly strong starts and combined to overcome the early setback of spearhead figure Scott Middlemiss losing in the Singles. Middlemiss was first off and having slipped from 8-8 to a 21-10 defeat in 21-ends from Archie Johnston might well have been an inspirational driver for the home side. Bellsburn’s first response came in the Triples and having made a terrific start to lead 10-1 the trio of Stuart Mackay, Jack Murphy, and Alan Murphy, absorbed later pressure to clinch a 14-10 victory.
The Bellsburn rink of Gordon Snedden, Dave McQueen, Eddie Caulfield, and Simon Lamb saw an early 6-1 lead dwindle to 6-6 then just keeping their nose in front to reach 13-12 produced a heroic 4, 2 finish to triumph 19-12. The Pairs was last to finish and their 15-8 win clinched the match honours but the main applause for Sam Gray and Craig Yeaman came in response to an electrifying start of 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 1, 1 for a 10-0 lead that had the Bellsburn camp buzzing.
West Lothian suffered a second damaging blow to their qualifying prospects in the East section of The Cities and Counties Championship with last seasons national finalists crashing to a 17 shot defeat (124-107) from Fife County at Duffus Park. WL now find themselves two points adrift of Edinburgh & Leith and East Lothian so drop down to third place with a tough run in including away matches against the current top two. Duffus Park hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds down the years for West Lothian and so it proved once again with four of the visiting rinks failing to achieve supremacy over their immediate opposition.
The combined defeat of the rinks skipped by Raymond Logan, Grant Logan, Thomas Mann, and Neil Speirs proved too much to be covered by the wins delivered by Steven Fleming and Sandy McDougall. West Lothian were favourites to win this one and the visitors did make an encouraging start having made the running to capture the first seven-end phase, 39-31, and they even showed signs of kicking on towards a comfort zone. The early stages of the second phase saw them card counts of 8-3, and 9-3, that accelerated them into a 19 shot lead (56-37) at which time no thoughts of defeat were being entertained. Fife then started to make inroads to cutting their deficit initially by small increments however end 14 brought a game-changing moment with the Fifers producing a 13-0 clean sweep from out of the blue. The dramatic influence on the Master Scoreboard was the transformation from Fife being eight shots down to five up and it galvanised the home team while seemingly taking the steam out of the West Lothian effort. Fife captured that second phase, 49-36, then stayed on strongly to outgun their visitors, 44-32, on the third.
West Lothian did have the consolation having the highest up rink in the match with Steven Fleming operating in flying mode to skip Brian Craig, Alec Allan, and Mark Allison into an 18-9 lead then jetting to a 28-9 victory with a 1, 4, 1, 2, 2, finish against D Crombie. But the only winning support came in the shape of a two shot success for Sandy McDougall who skipped Ewan Shearer, Gary Orr, and Stuart Johnston from 11-2 down to a 20-18 win over Gary Mackie. Fife were best served by the rink skipped by C Young who included a run of 1, 1, 5, 3, 1 as they accelerated from 8-6 to 19-6 then on to a punishing 29-12 win over Steven Forrest, Walter McDougall, Gary Smith and Ray Logan. Grant Logan and his rink of Drew Paterson, David Lamb, and John Aitken led 9-4 at one stage but suffered a severe collapse to 22-10 down and lost 25-13 to Chris Stein. Thomas Mann and his front-three of John Black, Blair Mackie, and James Speirs showed well to lead 14-10 but conceded 1, 4, 3, 5, to be crossed 23-14 and lost 23-17 to Alan Pearson. Neil Speirs carded a 5 to skip Andrew Semple, Jamie Aitken, and Calum Logan into a 1-10 lead before slipping to a 20-17 defeat from James Forbes. West Lothian have home green advantage at Linlithgow against Stirling County East this Saturday (2pm). No team news.