A HUGE weekend awaits Lowerhouse in the Lancashire Cricket League with a double-header - including the derby - that could see them take the lead in the race for the title.
Following on from a disappointing weekend in which both of their games were rained off, they now have the chance of topping the table if they win their game-in-hand against 12th placed Bacup tomorrow, before the form-book goes out of the window for the local tussle against Burnley 24 hours later.
Looking forward to a mouth-watering weekend, Lowerhouse first team coach Paul Stansfield was adamant his team would be wary of complacency: “We learnt the hard way earlier this season against Rishton that we can’t under-estimate our opponents, so now we never under-estimate any team and at the end of the day, any team with a professional is dangerous.
“It’s a big game against Bacup, and they’ve been using a sub-pro all season so we could literally be facing anyone.”
Although he was mindful that the game against Bacup is important, Stansfield is relishing the chance to face Burnley: “League positions don’t matter in these games, it’s just a massive derby match that both teams will go all out to win because no one wants to be on the losing side.
“They play an aggressive form of cricket and ball with a lot of spin, so when you combine that with their good amateurs and decent hitters they are a really good side, but we feel we’re just as, if not more aggressive than them.
“It’s going to come down to 22 players that want to win, and for us, we can put what is at stake (in the league) to the back of our minds and really go for it.”
Lowerhouse will be without Jon Finch and Matt Walker for the visit of Bacup, with 16-year-old Jack Edgar and Matt Marquis coming into the fold, while Finch will return for the derby, giving Stansfield an extra option.
While Lowerhouse have not played since their Worsley Cup Final victory, Sunday’s opponents Burnley have been in glorious form, winning four of their last five before an unbelievable last over against Todmorden - spearheaded by Graham Lalor - saw them tie the match on Sunday.
Burnley captain Bharat Tripathi has guided his side within a whisker of a top five finish, and the way his team went about fighting back will stay with him for the forseeable future, he said: “It was a really special game, obviously we looked at the fact it was a 25-over game and thought that would suit us, but we started terribly and our fielding wasn’t good at all.
“Brunty (Steve Brunt) and I got on the crease and we started to build a solid foundation before I was caught out, but that was probably a blessing in disguise because it gave Graham his chance.
“He’ll go down in Burnley Cricket Club history for knocking one onto the Cricket Field Stand roof, but it really couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, and to comeback like we did, well, you couldn’t script it.”
Lalor was understandably made up with his performance and said: “I’m in a bit of shock to be honest, its still not sunk in yet.
“I just wanted to hit them as hard as possible, and someone said to me that they think the last time someone hit one onto the stand was a pro back in the 1950s.
“After we’d won four on the bounce the draw really helps to keep the momentum going, especially coming into the Lowerhouse game since I’ve missed the last few against them.”
The Turf Moor based side have really started to build a head of steam coming into the closing stages of the competition after an inconsistent mid-season.
They can aim for a top five finish if they continue in this rich vein of form, and Tripathi believes this is down to a shift in mentally at the club: “Once of a time we would of just rolled over and accepted a defeat, but now we’re a lot more resilient, we show more character than we have in the past and we’re full of belief.”
They face sixth placed Haslingden going into the weekend’s double header, and a win will see them leapfrog the Bentgate-based side and set up the derby with Lowerhouse, and it’s this game that Bharat is looking forward to: “That’s the biggest game of our season. When we last played them, we had them on the run but they got back into it.
“This time though, things are going to be different.”
He added: “Hopefully, we can get closer to them in the league and mess up their title hopes in the process before we push on towards the top five.
“Looking at it the pressure is all on them, they’re fighting for the trophy and needing the wins while there’s not really any on us anymore. Also there were questions raised over their pro’s fitness and I’m not sure if that’s sorted yet either.”
And the news that the club’s pro Adnan Rasool will be returning next season has come as a massive boost: “I’ve said it before but I really do feel he’s the top pro in this league.
“At times he can literally be unbeatable and to take wickets like he does in a team that has struggled this season is really something to write home about.
“Not many people are aware but he’s had a tough time in England this year and he could easily go off and earn good money elsewhere but for him to be coming back is brilliant, because he’s an unbelievable player and a top lad to boot.”
Saturday is a designated replay date with Lowerhouse at home to Bacup and Burnley at home to Haslingden, before the big derby on Sunday see’s Lowerhouse make the short trip across town to face Burnley.
In the Houldsworth Solicitors Ribblesdale Cricket League, Padiham and Read will hope to see action after a complete washout last weekend.
The derby between the two sides was called off without a ball being bowled at Whalley Road on Sunday, the days after Padiham’s game at Baxenden and Read’s trip to Earby also fell foul of the incessant rain.
Tomorrow, Read - who lie 26 points behind leaders Barnoldswick with three games to play - host Edenfield, while Padiham are at home to Settle.
And there will hopefully be a derby on Sunday at the Arbories between the sides as June 3rd’s rained-off fixtures are replayed.
Note games start at 1 p.m. this weekend in the Ribblesdale League.