DEVON started the journey to the Bitterne Park Social Club, Southampton, on a cold Saturday morning, hoping to register two wins on the bounce in the premier division of the British Inter Counties Championship, but despite an outstanding come back, they went down by the narrowest of margins.
The visitors were facing an uphill struggle as early as the opening ladies B fixture when Sarah Brown (17.30) was the only winner in a 5-1 defeat.
Dave Matthews (27.72) began the revival with a 4-2 victory. He took the opening leg in 15 darts when finishing at the first time of asking from 156, and with the scoreline evenly poised at 2-2, he made sure of Devon’s second point when taking the next two legs in 16 and 15.
Dave Lake (20.46) came from 3-1 down to edge out his opponent 4-3, before the hosts pulled one back.
Antony Moss (22.52) and Fred Goldsmith (23.56) won 4-0 and 4-2 respectively, before Hampshire once again halted Devon’s progress.
Devon could only win two of the last five sets when Kieran Burns (25.04) and John Burton (24.77) both won 4-3 but Devon had reduced the deficit to trail 10-8 overnight.
The ladies A side were now required to put in a winning shift, but the defeat was a lot closer than the 4-2 scoreline would suggest.
Chrissie Kinnaird (18.79) won 3-0 and Lisa Hughes (18.75) hit a checkout of 148 in a 3-1 success but three of the last four sets were all lost by the narrowest of margins.
Devon were on the backfoot once again trailing 14-10, but the Men’s A side began well.
John Mann (26.37) and Thom Humphrey (25.69) both won in straight legs before Ben Chamberlain (25.63) and Lee Hellings (23.25) achieved their successes by a 4-2 margin.
Mark Shears (24.69) followed with a 4-1 victory and Devon were leading for the first time in the match at 15-14.
The hosts won the next to bring the two sides level once again only for two excellent performances to follow from Mark Turner (29.73) and Paul Milford (28.11).
Turner (pictured) went from being 2-1 up in 14 and 15 to trailing 3-2 before taking legs six and seven in 15 and 12 for a man of the match performance.
Milford trailed 3-1 before he won in 11, 15 and 16, finishing the 15-darter with a kill of 101 and recording no fewer than 17 ton-plus scores throughout his 4-3 victory.
Devon now led 17-15 with four to play. One point would guarantee a draw and a minimum of two points would give them a win but sadly Devon lost the last four and with it the match 19-17.
It was a hard defeat to take after 17 of the 36 sets came down to the deciding leg with Devon only winning six of them.
But 17 points keeps them in mid-table and they will be hoping to improve on that position when Devon host cross-Tamar rivals Cornwall at Heavitree Social Club over the weekend of February 8/9.