Lowerhouse’s season hinges on this weekend’s clash with title challengers Ramsbottom according to Liverpool Road chairman Stan Heaton.
At the start of July, ‘House were pushing for an unprecedented treble. However, a one-wicket loss to Rawtenstall in the Worsley Cup semi-final and a 19-run defeat to Church in the Twenty20 final scuppered those hopes.
Those defeats have now placed more importance on taking Accrington’s crown, though Ramsbottom are up twice before the campaign’s end. “We’ve got two crucial games coming up against Ramsbottom who are second in the league and only a win behind us,” said Heaton. “Those games will undoubtedly decide which way the season flops. Whoever comes out on top will probably go on to secure it.”
Charlie Cottam’s side do have an advantage over their rivals, though. While Rammy paid man Daryn Smit - who hit 790 runs while adding 88 wickets this term - has returned to South Africa in preparation for the new season, Lowerhouse have retained the services of professional Cobus Pienaar for one final showdown.
“There’s effectively two 24-pointers coming up so they are hugely important,” Heaton said. “Ramsbottom’s pro Daryn Smit has gone back and he’s plundered 800 runs plus almost 90 wickets. He’s been very significant and influential in their performances this season. But they’ve got Tom Parton who has fired numerous centuries so is a key player and Mike Haslam is a very effective bowler.
“We lose Cobus after this weekend because the South African states are bringing their players back for the start of their season. It can distort the league with how the fixtures fall but it’s the same for everyone. Ramsbottom may feel aggrieved that their pro is missing for the vital run in of games. We’ve got people fixed up ready to cover.”
Lowerhouse entertain Ramsbottom at the Neville Gee (Recruitment) Ground tomorrow before taking on Accrington at Thorneyholme Road on Sunday. “It would be a shame to finish the season with nothing,” said Heaton. “We’ve played very well after a slow start so we’re hoping that doesn’t come back to haunt us. We’ve got to prove that we’re the strongest team in the league now. We’re 15 games unbeaten so we’ve just got to continue that form. In terms of the league this has got to be the biggest weekend of the season.”
Meanwhile, Burnley’s Cole Hayman vociferated his delight in retaining the Worsley Cup in a commanding victory over Rawtenstall at the Worswick Memorial Ground.
The 19-year-old was awarded the man of the match accolade in the aftermath having contributed 19 runs at the tail end of the away side’s innings before taking 5-39 in a nine-over spell with the ball.
“I would probably say the first one was a bit more special with it being the first one in 29 years and with it being at home, but keeping hold of it is a great achievement for the club,” he said. “To go from struggling for form in the league to winning the Worsley Cup is great.
“The fact the trophy was ours to defend made us even more determined to retain it. We didn’t want to give it away. It was our trophy and we showed Rawtenstall just how much we wanted to keep it. We knew how good winning the competition felt last year and we wanted to experience that again.”
Hayman was restricted in his opening bowling spell, failing to find a breakthrough in a repeat of last year’s performance against Haslingden. However, he admits that a brief conversation with team-mate David Brown sparked a resurgence.
“I was worried at first,” he said. “It seemed like I couldn’t take a wicket in a Worsley Cup final - especially after last year. After the first five overs I spoke to David Brown and he gave me assurances. That helped and the second spell seemed to go my way.
“It has helped having the so called ‘superstars’ for our cup campaign. People criticise us for it, they have their opinions, but at the end of the day Burnley Cricket Club has produced those players. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be playing for us. They’re not committed to anybody else. They are talented players but they also impact in the dressing room, which shows with how David helped me.”
Hayman added: “I can’t explain the feeling of winning the Worlsey Cup. There wasn’t much time to think about it once the final wicket went. We celebrated afterwards but I think it sunk in more on Sunday. It’s a great achievement and it means a lot to everybody associated with the club.”
Burnley tackle Enfield at Dill Hall Lane tomorrow before hosting Church at Turf Moor on Sunday.