THROUGHOUT the past decade Rob Winnington has had more than one opportunity to follow a maiden Guardian Cup success back in 2006 with a second.

On Friday, he took the latest.

The Castle bowler was easily the most consistent at Comberbach over the course of three matches, but he had to dig deep to dash the hopes of clubmate Kevin Duncalf in an absorbing final.

A 21-19 victory means the 34-year-old adds his name to a shortlist of players to have lifted the silver trophy for a second time.

“The first thing I felt is a massive sense of relief,” said Winnington afterwards.

“I’ve been playing really well the past couple of seasons, only to suffer in finals against some of the top players in the game.

“I think I’d lost six big finals in a row before this one, and that affected me.

“I needed to savour that winning feeling again, and to get over the line in a big tournament.

“There have been moments when I’ve taken a bit of stick – and been called a jelly arm and other things – but I’ve hopefully laid that to rest a bit now.

“It’s a big boost to my confidence at what is a really important moment in the season.”

Winnington hopes to help Castle reach the Brunner Cup final this weekend.

They will be underdogs though against Tixall, from Birkenhead, who have won two of the past three finals.

Seven days later the Cheshire regular, who was appointed one of the county team’s captains this year, will travel to Nuneaton for the British Senior Individual Merit – referred to affectionately by bowlers as the ‘All England’ Championships.

“Both of those are less daunting now – bring them on!” said Winnington.

“It couldn’t be better preparation for the All England, and I can look forward to that now knowing I’ve backed up the good form I’ve shown this year.”

Last month, he finished as runner-up in the Cheshire Senior Merit after Pete Illidge pipped him 21-20 in the final.

Only 24 hours later, a head-to-head with Nicola Boulton – a former winner and reigning British Ladies’ Champion of Champions – beckoned in a Guardian Cup qualifier.

Winnington reflected: “I had to pick myself up quickly, and that was a big task because I was disappointed not to win the Merit – a competition that my dad and Grandad have both prevailed in previously.

“Nicola is a fantastic bowler, as we all know, so I was happy just to get through that one.”

That resilience served him well during a final that he started slowly after Duncalf put together a break of six.

Winnington rallied, but remained second-favourite when he trailed 18-14 against an opponent buoyed by a brilliant victory, from 11-0 down, against Glynn Cookson (Wharton Cons) in the last four.

“I tried to think only positive thoughts,” he said.

“But I admit that briefly I wondered if it was slipping away again.

“That next end changed everything though, and I got back in.

“After that, I wasn’t going to let it go.

“Not this time.”