A ROUTINE win for Castle’s best bowlers saw them accomplish a rather more remarkable feat.

They were expected to beat their Hop Pole counterparts when they travelled to take on lowly hosts without a victory in the Mid-Cheshire Bowling Association’s top-flight this season.

And they did, comfortably too.

“But we didn’t celebrate,” said captain Adi Faulkner.

“Maybe we will when we lose.”

He wasn’t being flippant.

His side had just extended an unbeaten run in the Premier Division to 50 matches, a sequence that started more than two years ago.

They returned to work 24 hours later, and stretched it further by prevailing at Frodsham Red Lion.

A 243-150 success at home to Crewe Post Office last Friday followed next.

Faulkner added: “It sounds daft, but we’ll probably stop and reflect when it ends.

“Whatever happens, it’s some record.”

Coincidentally Crewe, on April 28 2017, were the last opponent to beat Castle’s first team in a league game.

And curiously another side from south Cheshire, Hop Pole, came closest to breaking the streak when they held the Northwich outfit to a draw last July.

They have won every other game on this run.

Northwich Guardian: Captain Adi Faulkner told the Guardian that closest-rivals Wharton Cons A had pushed his Castle side to raise their level during a long unbeaten run. Picture: Jim McGurkCaptain Adi Faulkner told the Guardian that closest-rivals Wharton Cons A had pushed his Castle side to raise their level during a long unbeaten run. Picture: Jim McGurk

After 10 victories during the current campaign, Faulkner and company lead closest-rivals Wharton Cons A by a healthy 58-chalk margin.

In between lauding the skill of his teammates, he credits the Winsford side for their role in helping Castle reach a milestone.

“Without them pushing us we wouldn’t have done it,” he told the Guardian.

“We’re rivals, and we know making a mistake can let them in.

“That keeps you hungry.

“It was like that a couple of years ago; we only had that one loss and yet they beat us to the title.”

It served to motivate them.

However there have been other transformative moments.

A victory in the Brunner Cup final during the same season wasn’t consolatory.

Castle had never won the Cheshire County Bowling Association’s biggest team prize previously and their success against Lloyd Hotel proved to them – and others watching on – what they were capable of.

Individual successes have helped too; Rob Winnington won the Guardian Cup in 2017 and, more recently, Steve Morrey reclaimed the Cheshire Senior Merit last month.

Faulkner said: “Things like that create a feel-good factor around the place.

“Winning the Brunner Cup was a big moment, but the resilience we showed to that day was something else.

“Guys like Kevin Duncalf, who had reached the Guardian Cup final a few weeks earlier, and Ian Howell played like they did because they had confidence and belief from being part of a successful side.”

And they don’t want to slow down.

An unbeaten run isn’t a guarantee they will stay in top spot, and Castle are determined to keep hold of their crown.

Meanwhile a disappointing early exit from last season’s Brunner Cup has seen them enter this year’s edition in more determined mood.

A quarter-finals date with Houldsworth, another side with sights set on the trophy, will be a significant test next month.

Faulkner said: “This is a young side, in bowling terms at least, because almost all of us are under 40.

“A lot of the guys, like Andy Hamman and his brother Matty, have improved so much in a short space of time already.

“And we can get better yet too.”

If that sounds ominous, then that’s because it is.

Not for nothing, the captain rates this Castle side as the strongest he has been part of in more than two decades playing.

Asked which opponent had him worried most and prompted him to worry the run would end, one stood out above the others.

“It was Wharton Cons B,” he said.

“We beat them by one at their place.”