LANCASHIRE were defeated by the narrowest of margins by defending champions Wiltshire in the English Counties Final at Staffordshire club Beau Desert.

Lancashire halved the match in their fourth final in five years but succumbed 18 to 17.

After the day’s format had been switched, with the singles being played in the morning because of an adverse weather forecast, the final hour before lunch proved to be the turning point between the title contenders.

At that stage it seemed that northern champions Lancashire were in control but the closing stages of the singles saw the match swing Wiltshire’s way as they gained a crucial one-point lead.

That left Lancashire facing the difficult task of needing two-and-a-half points from the three foursomes.

As it turned out they secured two wins, meaning they came up just short.

It was Bill Bromilow’s last match as county captain after a five-year tenure, during which time Lancashire had been crowned champions on two occasions.

“The better team won,” he said.

“They out-putted us. We gave them a scare in the morning but they turned it around in the last few holes.

“That left us needing two-and-a-half points from the foursomes, which is difficult to achieve.

“We were hopeful but that last hour in the morning turned it.

“There were four quality teams but Wiltshire deserved their victory.”

Having seen their grip taken away in that vital hour before lunch, the Lancastrians knew they faced an uphill task in the foursomes but county champion Mark Young, from Hurst Green, and Formby’s Paul Kinnear kept their hopes alive with a 5&4 win over Ben Loughrey and Robbie Busher.

However, they knew the battle was over when Ali James and Josh Loughrey gave Wiltshire the vital point when they ran out 4&2 winners over John Carroll, of Huyton and Prescot, and Pleasington’s Jon Hurst in the top game.

The final tie went to Southport and Ainsdale duo Paul Howard and Sean Towndrow, in the side for injured Blackburn player Steve McGlynn, over Garry Slade and Jordan Smith.

In the third place match, Suffolk overcame Worcestershire 6-3.