LOWERHOUSE chairman Stan Heaton believes the real test begins now.
A narrow, yet pulsating, two-wicket defeat at the hands of Enfield saw the Dill Hill Lane club usurp the West Enders’s top spot in the Lancashire Cricket League.
That defeat on Sunday condemned Charlie Cottam’s men to a fourth loss in six encounters, having boasted a 100% record in 11 outings prior to that.
And what was more frustrating was the manner of the result which was iced with controversy at the finale. With three balls remaining and five runs required for victory, Joe Martin led the assault only to be impeded by bowler David Bracewell. The 18-year-old was consequently run out.
“It was a very good game,” said Stan. “A lot of the spectators said it was a great advert for Lancashire League cricket. However, the game did end quite controversially. Joe was impeded going for his first run and had the umpire seen that he would have awarded us penalty points which would’ve given us the win. He didn’t see it though and Joe was run out.”
But the long-serving Liverpool Road official has warned his players not to dwell on the outcome and bounce back with immediate effect away to East Lancs on Saturday and then Church on home soil on Sunday.
“We’ll make no issue of it,” he declared. “We’re disappointed to have lost the game and in the manner we lost it but we’ve got to get on with it. Enfield batted extremely well and bowled superbly for the second part of our innings. We have no divine right to win every game so there’s no point in beating ourselves up about it. The opposition deserves credit.”
The title chase is still in ‘House’s hands as they have a game in hand on the table toppers who they trail by a mere two points. Now Heaton is targeting another unbeaten run.
“We need to focus on ourselves in order to bounce back,” he said. “It’s no good looking at other teams. We’ve lost a few games recently but that’s cricket. We need to make sure that we prepare properly and make the right decisions in games. They will be testing times for sure but there’s no reason why we can’t embark on another unbeaten stretch.”
He added: “The spirit is absolutely first class. There’s a bit of frustration but nobody is down. The pro (Francois Haasbroek) has been working harder than ever and has been at the nets all week. The rest of the players are still upbeat and they recognise that sometimes you get beat in sport.”
The West End batting order has been notoriously prolific in the league over the last 15 months but the wet weather has dampened their alarming run rate. Heaton is hoping for dry weather in the final run in to improve the tracks but admitted his side will have to adapt if that isn’t the case in a bid to retain their championship crown.
“These wet wickets don’t suit us,” he said. “We’ve got the batting line-up to post big scores but we need good tracks. But we’re still second and that’s testament to everyone involved. We are having to adapt because it doesn’t suit our batting style. We’re looking forward to the rest of the season whether that be accustoming ourselves to the wet tracks or playing on better tracks.”
Meanwhile, Burnley will be looking to avenge their recent defeat against Rawtenstall when they travel to the Worswick Memorial Ground on Sunday.
Burnley’s form has been indifferent of late, beating Rishton and losing to Church one week, yet recording opposite results against the same opposition in following weeks. They even beat fifth place Accrington with relative ease.
Bharat Tripathi’s side had been gunning for four successive triumphs on home soil prior to the clash with Rawtenstall at Turf Moor at the beginning of July, but a two run loss prevented that feat from transpiring.
Elsewhere, Padiham paid man Chris Holt is hoping to achieve a sensational personal milestone this term.
While his side’s fortunes are his priority, Holt is closing in on a 100-wicket haul for the season. With nine games remaining the Arbories professional is the most prolific bowler in the league with 71 wickets. To be successful he needs an average of 3.2 wickets per game.
“It would be ideal to reach that target,” said Holt. “At the beginning of the season I set myself a target of 80 but with the overs I’ve bowled it looks like I’ll exceed that target. It would be absolutely amazing to get to the 100 wicket mark.
“If the weather stays dry then I’ll give it a good go. It would be a great achievement because I never thought I would get anywhere near it. I would be chuffed with it.
“I really rate some of the professionals in this league. There’s some great players. It’s nice to be competing with them but to have taken more wickets than them is superb.”
But the focus for the club is to finally land that elusive fourth spot. Padiham are sixth, 14 points behind Settle in that final Lancashire League spot, and sandwiched in-between is Clitheroe who host John Bushell’s outfit at Chatburn Road tomorrow.
“Every time we talk about fourth spot we go on to lose,” conceded Holt. “We don’t want to jinx it. It’s a big game because Clitheroe are up there and this will give us an inkling as to whether we can claim fourth. We’ve still got Read and Baxenden to play twice plus Settle so it’s still going to be tough regardless of this result.”
Holt added: “We are confident we can do it. You have to beat teams like that if you are to finish up there. We’ve got a lot of people contributing at the moment with John Bushell and Callum Clarke doing well at the weekend. We’ve got Nesir Mehmood back tomorrow as well. We seem to be more settled now, more moulded, and everyone has been able to express themselves a bit more.
“We’ve got to watch out for Clitheroe’s professional Kashif Saddique. He always seems to come back to haunt us after he left the club. He’s been formidable with the bat and good with the ball recently. He’s a class player and can win games on his own.”
Meanwhile, Read travel to third place Baxenden tomorrow in the Houldsworth Solicitors Ribblesdale Cricket League. Kyle O’Connor’s side are currently 10 points clear of their rivals and could edge closer to cementing the runner-up place with victory at Back Lane.