LOWERHOUSE chairman Stan Heaton believes it could be make or break time for the West Enders.
A comfortable 104-run victory over Rawtenstall at Liverpool Road ensured the club still hang on to top spot in the Lancashire League, though Accrington remain level on points.
And now Charlie Cottam’s side will be embroiled in consecutive double-header weekends, which could see the hierarchy take more shape with 48 points at stake. “As every win goes by we’re getting nearer to the finishing post so to still be top feels comforting,” Heaton said. “It means we are still playing good cricket and picking up points. We are halfway through now but we’re heading in to double-header territory and things can change rapidly.”
Accrington’s run-in doesn’t appear too threatening; starting with Burnley at home, they then travel to basement side Colne, entertain mid-table Rawtenstall and then go head-to head with struggling Rishton at Blackburn Road. But Ramsbottom, Todmorden and Church are also in close proximity of the summit and are waiting to pounce.
“They can fall either way,” said Heaton. “If we win both of our games then we could open up a 20 point gap, if not we could fall behind. There really is no breathing space. But we can’t afford to worry about other teams, our first priority is to win our own games.”
But first and foremost for Lowerhouse they face Enfield on home soil tomorrow before taking in the sights of Lanehead where they’ll pit their wits against Bacup. Skipper Cottam is unavailable for the weekend’s fixtures while Jonathan Finch is undertaking his ECB duties. Jonny Russell will deputise as captain while youngsters Jonny Whitehead and Matt Walker will step up from the second string.
Heaton said: “Enfield are a dangerous side and have got some good players. We won’t be taking them lightly. East Lancs, like Enfield, will be disappointed with their season so far. They’ve got a pro (Ockert Erasmus) who has bedded in to the team now. He’s taking wickets and scoring runs but we’ll be doing our all to maintain our form.”
Meanwhile, Read will be looking to bridge the 18-point canyon on Ribblesdale Cricket League leaders Barnoldswick.
The victory Park outfit have been relentless in recent weeks, proving to be formidable competitors. Now Read skipper Warren Eastham is adamant that there’s no more room for error following the weekend defeat to Whalley.
Tomorrow’s opponents Salesbury have won just three of their last nine matches in all competitions, but paid man Susantha Pradeep has hit incredible form. The Ribchester Road professional took four consecutive wickets during his spell of 5-40 and also fired an unbeaten 79 in a three-wicket triumph over Earby.
“We should be beating teams like Salesbury but we know their pro is the man who can make the difference,” Eastham said. “His bowling isn’t world class but he bowls a good, medium pace. His batting is more of a concern for us but if we get him early then we should win.”
Pradeep, who has smashed 654 runs to date, could well prove to be a thorn in Read’s side but Eastham is confident that his side’s glittering home form will prevail.
“We’ve got to bounce back,” he said. “It’s up to us to come back with a bang. Every team that’s come to play us at Read has had a tough game so we’ll be looking for that sequence to continue.”
Eastham added: “There’s a lot of disappointed faces at the club at the moment and they’ll be wanting to put things right tomorrow. They’ve got some decent players including their captain Jason Rawson. They have players who’ll chip in as well but if we play to our capabilities then we shouldn’t suffer too much.”
And miraculously, much to Eastham’s bemusement, Read will compete in the Lancashire KO quarter-final on Sunday, despite not having played a single game in the competition. Three bowl outs has been the total sum of their involvement yet they’ll face Denton West away in search of a place in the last four.
“It’s great,” said Eastham. “We’ve got through three stages of the competition and now we’re in the quarter-finals without playing a single match.”
Elsewhere, Padiham will be looking to get back on track after Saturday’s disappointing defeat to Ribblesdale when they take on Oswaldtwistle tomorrow.
Despite Oswaldtwistle sitting five places below Padiham in the Ribblesdale Cricket League, captain John Bushell said his side would be taking nothing for granted when they squared up against each other at the Arbories.
“We beat them away at the beginning of the season so we will know what to expect. It’s never a simple game though and we will have a couple of players missing.”
Bushell said he was now looking for strong performances in the next few games and for the team to try and get as many points as possible.
“There were a couple of interesting results at the top at the weekend so it’s pretty tight now with not many points between teams.”
Meanwhile Burnley face second placed Accrington away and Bacup at home this weekend and Burnley captain Steve Brunt said they were looking forward to the double header.
“I thought we played well against Todmorden at the weekend and although we lost we are confident going into these games.
“We have a young side, even younger now with some players away on holiday, but this will definitely benefit them in the future.”
Burnley currently lie just three places off the bottom of the Lancashire League and Brunt said it was imperative they started picking up points now.
“We want to try and get away from the bottom of the table as quickly as possible. We’ve played some decent stuff this season but maybe a lack of experience at vital times has cost us at certain times.
“Weekends like this are good though because it’s a great oppourtunity to pick up around 20 -24 points which would make us very happy.”