AN under-strength Lancashire lost their first Daily Telegraph Northern Counties League match for nearly two years when they went down 11-7 to Yorkshire at Selby.

With England internationals Paul Howard, Paul Kinnear and Haydn McCullen competing in the Scottish Strokeplay Championship, skipper Paul Williams knew it was always going to be a difficult task.

But Curtis Clarkin, making his debut, and Paul McFerran, back after a four-year break, at least did not let the side down as they won their singles while many of the more experienced players capitulated.

A three-point deficit from the morning foursomes meant Lancashire, the reigning league champions, were on the back foot in the afternoon and three defeats in the opening five matches left virtually ended their hopes.

They can make amends when their six-man team, with their key men back in the fold, start their defence of the English English Men’s County Championship in the northern qualifying round at Ganton on Wednesday.

Williams said: “We need to win to restore our confidence and we’ve got the side to do it.”

Elsewhere, Durham beat Northumberland 12-6 at George Washington and Cheshire lost 11-7 against Cumbria at Prestbury.

* LANCASHIRE’S domination of the English Men’s County Championship northern qualifying round, which they had won five times in the last six years, was stymied by Yorkshire at Ganton.

But it was a close-run encounter with only three strokes separating the Roses rivals – the same margin at the half-way point.

It all came down to the respective anchormen, William Whiteoak signing off with a 69, and Jonathan Hurst a 70 which were the day’s lowest scores. Yorkshire, capitalising on home advantage, earned the right to compete in the English County Finals at Royal North Devon in September, Lancashire having won the crown at Gloucestershire club Minchinhampton last year.

SCORES: 897 Yorkshire; 900 Lancashire; 909 Northumberland; 921 Cumbria; 927 Durham; 931 Cheshire; 970 Isle of Man