PRACTICE makes perfect according to Lowerhouse chairman Stan Heaton. Training has been stepped up at Liverpool Road by head coach Nigel Brown, while the input of Paul Stansfield, skipper Charlie Cottam and professional Francois Haasbroek has been exemplary.
And the reward for the West Enders’ continued grit and determination is the leadership of the Lancashire League having won 14 of their 17 games. They now have a seven-point gap over Todmorden who face Accrington at home this weekend.
“The lads are training extremely hard and practising very keenly,” Heaton said. “As well as skills and techniques there’s been more concentration on forthcoming fixtures, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and it’s paid dividends. We think we’ve stepped training up a notch and the players have really got on board.”
But no-one is getting ahead of themselves: “I’m still not sure teams are actually taking notice yet. It’s sort of just gone by practically unnoticed but that’s great. But it still feels as though there’s a long way to go in the season so we are not getting too carried away just yet. I don’t think there’s any danger of us getting complacent. I think it’s more of a case of us holding our nerve.”
Now it’s Haslingden on home territory tomorrow for the ‘House and once again the expectation is high. Haslingden are sixth with 125 points, 40 shy of the West Enders, but Heaton knows they’re not out of the title race just yet.
“Haslingden are always a tough outfit,” he said. “They are hard competitors and we know it’s going to be an extremely difficult game. They’ve got some great individuals and I’m surprised they’re only sixth but there’s nine games left and they’re not out of it.”
Elsewhere, Burnley skipper Steve Brunt believes that it’s the ideal time to be playing reigning Lancashire League champions Ramsbottom.
The title-holders have lost four consecutive games which has seen the odds of their defence slashed considerably. They are now 38 points from the summit and have a Worsley Cup final on Sunday to focus on.
“There are never easy games in this league,” Brunt said. “We always have a good game against Ramsbottom and they are always a strong and competitive team to play against. I thought they would have been challenging for the title but results haven’t gone their way recently and they’ve dropped out of it a bit.
“We are confident of putting in a performance and getting the result. It’s an ideal time to play them because we are playing good cricket. We just want to focus on ourselves. If we continue like this then we’ll win more than we lose.”
Burnley’s 34-run victory against East Lancs at the Alexandra Meadows was only their fourth success of the 2011 campaign. Now Brunt wants his young guns to push on and target a mid-table finish.
“We could always do with more wins but we’ll look to do that from now until the end of the season. We are a young team and the experience will help them. There’s still nine games left and there’s no reason why we can’t head towards mid-table and a bit more respectability.”
In the Ribblesdale Cricket League, Read captain Warren Eastham has described the fixture against Baxenden tomorrow as another ‘cup final’.
However, the Whalley Road leader will be hoping tomorrow’s top-of-the-table clash at Back Lane will end better than the weekend’s heart-breaking Ramsbottom Cup final defeat at the hands of Ribblesdale Wanderers.
Just three points separate Read and third place Bash who are level on points with Barnoldswick. Eastham’s men have beaten their rivals twice so far this season; by four wickets in the league and by 82 runs in the Ramsbottom Cup semi-final.
“If ever there was a game where we need to perform it’s this one,” said Eastham. “It is a real crunch game for us. We could have gone in to it with confidence on the back of a cup win but we find ourselves potless and needing to put a really good performance in.
“We’ve beaten them a couple of times this year and they’ve all been close games. We are two very evenly matched sides but we’ve had too much for them on a couple of occasions.”
Elsewhere, Padiham will be looking to recover from their defeat against Earby when they entertain Clitheroe at the Arbories. Just a solitary point separates the two sides going in to the fixture at the Arbories tomorrow which begins at 1-30 p.m. Victory for John Bushell’s men would see them close the gap on Great Harwood in fifth spot.