Brilliant Bolton books place in county bowls semi-finals

Richard Bolton and Dave Baxter met in the county quarter finals

Richard Bolton and Dave Baxter met in the county quarter finals - Credit: Archant

But it is agony for Smith as he misses out again

Romford bowler Nigel Smith with Steve Gunnell before their county singles clash

Romford bowler Nigel Smith with Steve Gunnell before their county singles clash - Credit: Archant

Romford bowler Richard Bolton battled his way into the semi-finals of the county singles on Monday night as he looks to win the coveted title for the fourth time.

You have to go a long way back for the last time he won it, but it was good to see Bolton's gleaming, toothy grin again as he got the better of Dave Baxter from Wanstead Central 21-17 at Witham Bowls Club.

"It is good to be back among these top players," said the Romford man. "I was saying to Andy Squire it is like the old days because I would always play him in the semu-finals."

This time he has avoided reigning champion Squire from Maldon and will instead play another former champ in Ed Morris.

Morris will be on his home green at Essex County Bowls Club in Westcliff-on-Sea for that last four clash, but Bolton is relishing the prospect.

"it's going to be tough," he admitted. "If I play the way I did against Steve Mitchinson, I will give him a game, but you have to be at a certain level to beat him.

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"I would say I am the unbderdog, but I am quite happy with that. He will be playing at home and though he will say it is not a great advantage, it really is."

Monday's game with Baxter proved a marathon with the lead changing hands on numerous occasions, but it was the experience of Bolton that told in the end.

"When I was playing the longer jacks he was coming up short and I could see him struggling, but he was nailing it on the short jacks with the mat up," said Richard.

"I don't mind a chuck if needs be and so I could see a weakness which I managed to exploit."

At 15-15 it was anybody's match, but Bolton scored a two on the next and finally booked that semi-final spot by 21-17.

Now to Essex County on July 13 for what should be a fascinating clash.

"If it is lightning fast and a windy day, then it will be tough for both players," said Bolton. !I have got my old woods and they are working well on this kind of green, they are a bendier wood, but it might be different there.

"But I have great faith in these woods, I have won it three times with these woods, so I am not changing now."

Hopes of a double Romford win on Monday were dashed when Nigel Smith lost in another close encounter against nemesis Steve Gunnell from Bournemouth Park.

Two years ago, Gunnell pipped him 21-20 on the way to the title, but it looked like Smith was going to gain revenge for that loss.

"Every time I play Steve it is always a close game, but I thought I got away tonight," admitted Nigel. "But there were just a few ends that turned the match in his favour."

One of those ends was when Smith was 17-11 in front and holding a game lie with Gunnell having three woods in the ditch.

With his last wood, Gunnell drew the shot to stay in the game and that seemed to turn the momentum his way.

"If anyone got on the jack, it was hard to get it off. Full length was a massive chuck on a heavy green," he said.

Smith had advanced to the last eight despite a chronic back problem that had forced him to pull out of the county triples.

"My back was really hurting at the end," he said. "I can hardly move now, but I wish Steve the best of luck."

Gunnell finally got over the line by 21-19, to book a semi-final clash with champion Andy Squire, so how does Nigel reflect on his championship?

"I haven't been playing very well at all, but I have managed to get over the line," he said.

"I thought I had again in this game, but it was not to be."

A valiant effort from Nigel, but at least Bolton is still flying the Romford flag in the last four.