STAN Heaton believes Lowerhouse’s intrepid and persistent displays are the reason behind their Lancashire Cricket League leadership.
The West End chairman watched as the club survived Enfield’s challenge to move seven points clear over second place Accrington. And he believes the dogged performances, accentuated in the narrow victory at weekend, have seen them pick up vital points.
“We’re performing well and games are going our way so the points are adding up,” said Heaton. “We’ve probably got about 40 points this year which in another season we wouldn’t have picked up.
“It was another one of those games where we were made to bat first and it’s not great to be doing that in rain-affected conditions, but we’ve managed to win a tight game.”
He added: “We have opened up a bit of a gap now but we think that there’s a strong possibility that the others will get to replay those games at the end of the season. But we’ve got the points in the bag so we’re delighted.”
It’s clear that skipper Charlie Cottam has developed a tight knit group of players, an excellent and spirited dressing room atmosphere and a mentality worthy of a club that tops such a competitive table.
In his professional Francois Haasbroek he has the third most prolific paid man in the league with 49 wickets who has also added 419 runs to his arsenal. Add to that Jonathan Finch who has scooped 34 wickets to date and 289 runs, a big-hitting youngster in Ben Heap who has smashed 282 runs in six matches and the fielding prowess of Joe Martin, and you can see why Lowerhouse are at the summit.
But Heaton says everybody is doing there bit: “Our pro Francois Haasbroek takes wickets and is very economical which is a massive help. With players like him we feel we’re capable of defending a decent score.
“People are stepping up to the plate; Ben Heap has been in great form and has been hitting 50-plus a lot of weeks, Fergus Bailey, who doesn’t bowl regularly, bowled a tight over at weekend and took three wickets which proved vital and Jon Beneduce fired an unbeaten 14 and they were really crucial. Everybody’s doing their bit.”
First up this double header weekend is a mini-derby date with Nelson at Seedhill tomorrow. Lowerhouse won comfortably earlier in the season but Nelson avenged defeat with victory in the Worsley Cup.
“Nelson are a very dangerous side and they are capable of beating anyone as they did against us in the Worsley Cup,” said Heaton.
Then on Sunday it’s Bacup who thrashed the West Enders on the opening day of the 2011 campaign. Heaton said: “We will be looking for revenge. The first game of the season we considered to be a sham. Their lad (Joe Sipocz) got nine wickets that day and he’s not taken many more since.
“There was about six LBW decisions in as many overs which is ridiculous. We were outraged but we’ll be looking to turn things around.
• Meanwhile, Padiham will be looking to boost their winning ratio in a double dose of Ribblesdale Cricket League action this weekend.
John Bushell’s men go in to the final 10 games of the season having won eight and lost eight of their 16 games.
“We want to increase our percentage of wins,” said Bushell. “We’ve won eight and lost eight so we’re definitely looking for that ratio to shift in to the ‘wins’ column. We expected inconsistency from a young side but we’ll be looking to address that up until the end of the season.
“Going in to the last 10 games we need to look towards equalling last year’s total of 176 points at least. But the young lads are more confident now and they’ll start to add that consistency to their game.”
Struggling Edenfield, who sit second bottom of the table, are Padiham’s first opponents tomorrow at Gincroft Lane. Bushell said: “We are only nine points away from fourth position so it’s very even again.
“It’s a massive weekend for us now. Edenfield will be a tough game and we stole the win in a tight game earlier in the season.”
Padiham will then pit their wits on home soil against league leaders Barnoldswick who have been in formidable form of late. Jaffar Nazir’s side, who acquired the services of former Padiham amateurs Umar and Abdul Saddique in the summer, have won 11 of their last 12 fixtures which has seen them open up a 13 point gap at the top.
“Barnoldswick will be considered the favourites on Sunday,” said Bushell. “There’s a big list of good players there. Umar and Abdul Saddique obviously left us to go there and the former is in great form. Richard Nichols is a good all-round performer and Matthew Nutter is one of the best amateur batsmen in the league. They’ve got a very strong top order batting line-up.”
• Elsewhere, Burnley captain Steve Brunt is simply looking forward to playing some cricket after last weekend’s Lancashire League washout.
His side take on Colne at home on Saturday before travelling to Rawtenstall on the Sunday for two games Brunt is confident of winning.
“It would be nice just to get a game of cricket in this weekend,” he joked. “We’re looking forward to both games and we definitely feel they are winnable. We always feel we are capable of stringing a few wins together and this would be a could time to do it as we look to move up the table.”
Brunt revealed Burnley would have one of its strongest teams of the season this weekend with players returning from holiday but also admitted it had been good to see some of the youngsters gaining expereince in recent weeks.
“We do have a very young squad and only the other week we had two 16 year-olds , a 17-year-old and a 14-year-old playing. It’s good experience for them and if they are good enough then we don’t have a problem in playing them, we’ve always been a club that looks to youth.
“This weekend though we have a lot of players back and it will probably be the strongest position we have been in all season.”
• Read will be looking to keep their fine league going in this weekend’s Ribblesdale League double header.
The second placed team face Great Harwood away on Saturday followed by a trip to Cherry Tree on Sunday as they look to chase down leaders Barnoldswick.
And captain Warren Eastham is hopeful his side can pile on pressure by picking up two wins.
“We really need to up the ante now,” he said. “ We are playing at well at the minute and we want to carry that on. They’re are going to be difficult games though but if can up our level of performance then I think we should be ok.
“I’m back this weekend (Eastham has been suffering with a hamstring injury) and we have a good strong side out so we’re going to be going into the matches with confidence.”