CHAIRMAN of Lancashire Cricket League champions Lowerhouse Stan Heaton has labelled the weekend’s clash with Accrington as ‘important but not critical’.
The pair fought it out for the title last year with the West Ender’s prevailing by a 30-point margin. The two sides lock horns again tomorrow at Thorneyholme Road, both boasting a 100% record after four fixtures though Lowerhouse benefit from a two-point gap at the summit by virtue of bonus points.
Heaton understands that the result will have a significant bearing on the league table at this early stage, but he remains adamant that nothing is decided so prematurely.
“We’ve got two very big matches,” declared Heaton. “The league has started to take on a similar shape to last year, though we’re only four games in. Accrington will be one of the teams up there so effectively it’s going to be a 24-pointer despite it being so early in the season.
“It’s a very important match but at this stage it’s not critical. But it’s never too early in the season for a fixture to take on such importance. Both sides are looking useful and they are our rivals.”
Heaton added: “Both teams are unbeaten and it could well be that one of us loses that 100% record. We’re edging ahead at the top after collecting more bonus points. That record will go sooner or later, we know that, and it’s not something that we are particularly thinking about but we are unbeaten and long may that continue.”
It’s been a spectacular start from Charlie Cottam’s men. To date they have strolled past East Lancs by 79 runs, Colne by nine wickets, Bacup by 10 wickets and Nelson by 156 runs. In short Lowerhouse have been ruthless.
“It has been an emphatic start,” Heaton beamed. “We have beaten four of the bottom five but you have to consider that they are down there because we’ve beaten them. It’s going to be tight and there will be upsets.”
The next challenge for the Liverpool Road outfit is to improve form in the cup competitions. Lowerhouse entertain basement side Rawtenstall in the first round of the Worsley Cup on Sunday hoping to make an impression.
“We want to give a good account of ourselves in all competitions,” said Heaton. “We were knocked out by Nelson in the second round of the Worsley Cup last year so we’re determined to improve on that.
“Rawtenstall are bottom of the league but we certainly won’t underestimate them. Colne have beaten Haslingden and Rishton have beaten Ramsbottom already so we know anything can happen. They beat us last year at their place so we know our performance will have to be top notch for us to progress.”
Heaton added: “We’re looking to make an impression in all competitions. We always go out and try to do our best. We’ve been quite unsuccessful in the cup competitions recently but that just makes us more determined to do better. We’ve still got four competitions to go for.”
Meanwhile, Burnley captain Steve Brunt has urged his side to build on their first victory of the season.
The Turf Moor skipper took great heart from the weekend after toppling Colne in a 184-run triumph.
Qasim Ali’s outstanding knock of 114 and paid man Adnan Rasool’s phenomenal eight-wicket haul epitomised the quality and capability within the Turf Moor ranks.
Now, with a tough league fixture against Ramsbottom and a Worsley Cup clash with Nelson on the horizon, Brunt is expecting some continuity in form. “They are two tough games,” said Brunt. “Ramsbottom are always a very strong side but we’ve played some great cricket recently coupled with a great result against Colne so we are hoping to keep progressing.
“It was quite comprehensive against Colne. We played really well and batted exceptionally well with Qasim hitting a superb ton. Then our pro did the business with the ball and took his 18th wicket in only four games. He’s a real threat.”
Brunt added: “The league is tight and anybody can beat anybody. Shocks and surprises happen in this league all the time and we’ve got a good record against Ramsbottom, we always give them a good game, so there’s no reason why we can’t get the victory.”
Burnley recently lost by seven runs to Nelson on home soil in the league. Now Brunt is seeking revenge in the Worsley Cup at Seedhill on Sunday.
“We want to make an impression in the cup and I fancy our chances in this game,” he said.
“We want to progress as far as we can and improve on last year following our close first round exit to Haslingden.
“Finals are fantastic occasions and they give you something to strive for. It’s very early in the competition but we’re eager to do well because it’s such a prestigious cup. We won’t be taking Nelson lightly but we’ll be looking to turn the tables on our league result.”
Elsewhere, in the Houldsworth Solicitors Ribblesdale Cricket League, high-flying Read will be hoping to peg back the eight-point gulf on table-toppers Barnoldswick as they entertain Whalley while Padiham welcome Ribblesdale Wanderers to the Arbories.