Best is yet to come from Lowerhouse

CRUCIAL KNOCK: Man of the match Ben Heap on his way to 77 in Sunday's Worsley Cup Final at Church
CRUCIAL KNOCK: Man of the match Ben Heap on his way to 77 in Sunday's Worsley Cup Final at Church

THE Worsley Cup final man of the match Ben Heap considers the current crop of West Enders to be the most talented in the club’s history.

Victory over Church at Blackburn Road in the competition’s finale secured only the club’s fourth major trophy in an existence spanning 150 years.

Lowerhouse first won the trophy in 2004 following a spectacular barren spell which had often cast harrowing shadows over Liverpool Road. But that success not only perished the tag and reputation of being a ‘Cinderella’ club, it bred belief, determination, desire and success.

Heap, who played an integral role against Haslingden eight years ago, helping his uncle Chris Bleazard to a match-winning century, this time contributed with a knock of 77 which built the foundations of victory.

“I was just very pleased and very emotional when we won it,” said the 24-year-old. “We first won it in 2004 and it meant a lot to the club and I was determined to repeat that success again. I just dug deep for the team.

“The first time I was very young and very new to first team cricket. It didn’t really sink in on that occasion. Now I’m vice-captain and a senior player so I knew fully what it meant to win the Worsley Cup. It just felt that bit more special. We are more of a family club now, everybody here has strong links with Lowerhouse, and we’ve been together for a few years now so it’s great. You can see what it means to everyone.”

Heap added: “We won’t be known as the ‘Cinderella’ club now that’s for sure. We still sometimes have a bit of a joke about it though. But we don’t want to stop here, we need to keep progressing so we can achieve more. The club has achieved so much recently but we’ve never done the double so we’re desperate to do that.

“We all work very hard for each other on and off the field, there’s a real team spirit in the dressing room and we back each other 100%. That’s why it feels so good to win things because we’re all Lowerhouse through and through. We know we’re a good team and none of us like to lose.

“We’ve developed in to a really good side now, one of the best the club has ever seen. It will take something to better this side. We want to push on and dominate for the next decade. It’s great to have been involved in the club’s most successful spell in its history.”

Team coach Paul Stansfield and skipper Charlie Cottam were dealt the heart-wrenching task of omitting a player from the starting XI just hours before the final. And Stansfield lavished praise for the character and application of the man who missed out - Paddy Martin.

“It was brilliant, a good day and a good night,” he said. “There were some brilliant individual performances but there are two players deserving of a special mention. They are Paddy Martin and Charlie Cottam.

“Paddy found out just 12 hours before the tie that he wasn’t playing. I can’t begin to imagine how disappointed he must have been. But he still turned up to back his team-mates and that just epitomises the spirit we have in this team. He was as big a part of that team as everybody else on the day and he helped us to victory. His presence and support really spurred us on.”

Stansfield added: “Charlie has a seven-day-a-week job as captain. The club is developing young players and he’s given up his own time and dedication to help with that development.

“He does all the training and selections for matches, he’s involved in everything and not everyone appreciates what he does. Now he’s become the most successful captain in Lowerhouse Cricket Club’s history so the hard work and effort has been rewarded and I’m delighted for him.”

Lowerhouse opened with 192, with Heap taking the starring role with the bat, but the five-pronged bowling attack had to be ruthless to restrict their opponents. Church professional Saeed Anwar’s 70 took Church close but the West End attack did enough.

“Ben’s innings showcased a quality knock from a quality player,” said Stansfield. “Joe Hawke produced an explosive spell at the start with the ball and Jon Finch comes up with the goods when you need it the most. Our pro Francois Haasbroek chipped in with four wickets as well.

“But all the team deserve credit for their performance. Everybody in the squad has contributed something to it, it’s not just the 11 men that we put out on the field. It’s a massive club effort and that’s why we’re successful.”

Lancashire League triumph could make Stansfield the most decorated coach in the club’s history, but he refuses to think like that just yet. He insists the ‘House will approach things one game at a time, with celebrations and talk of a potential ‘double’ muted until a later date.

“It definitely gives us that momentum now so it’s up to us to prove that we’re the best team in the league over the course of the season,” he said. “We’ll enjoy this moment first but we won’t focus on breaking records until after the season.

“It’s important to take it a game at a time. We’ll look at any records or success in the future, when the season is finished. It’ll be nice to look back at our success, to see what we’ve achieved, that’s what records are for. But for now we’re focussing on building and progressing.”

Chairman Stan Heaton admits he was on the edge of his seat in the closing stages as the clash promised to go to the wire. Church paid man Anwar had threatened to dampen Lowerhouse’s day, until that one ‘miracle’ ball.

“Both teams bowled really well,” he said. “The game itself was like the cricket version of chess and it only got interesting in the final nine overs. It was quite tactical and measured and neither side wanted to give anything away.

“Their pro looked like winning it for them at one stage but it only takes one ball and your back in it and that’s what happened. We prayed for a miracle ball to out their pro and that happened when Finchy yorked him. Cue the celebrations.

“In the build up to that Joe Martin took a great catch from Ferguson and Finchy took another superb catch from Greenwood to bring an end to another stand. It was really quite nerve-racking at the end though.”

Heaton added: “To win the cup the year after winning the league is the reverse of our first two trophies. But we may nick the league title this year as well just yet. The main thing is it’s progress and we are moving forward. Any kind of progress is success and trophies are a manifestation of that success.

“A special tribute needs to go to Paul Stansfield who has done a great job as manager. He does a lot of work in the background at the club as well as hands on work with the squad. It adds to the professionalism that we are trying to embody at the club. He’s most definitely the unsung hero.”

Lowerhouse host Rawtenstall on Sunday as they seek to reclaim top spot from Enfield while Burnley entertain Bacup at Turf Moor. In the Houldsworth Solicitors Ribblesdale Cricket League, Read host Oswaldtwistle Immanuel tomorrow while Cherry Tree are the visitors to the Arbories where they’ll face Padiham.

On Sunday Read will round off the double-header weekend against Salesbury at Ribchester Road and Padiham will travel to New Lane to face Oswaldtwistle Immanuel.