Lowerhouse professional Francois Haasbroek believes this weekend’s treble could be the perfect tonic for the West Enders to prove how serious they are about retaining their historic double.
Haasbroek et al entertain kickstart their Twenty20 campaign this evening as they host Nelson in Group C of the competition at Liverpool Road’s Neville Gee (Recruitment) Cricket Ground.
Paul Stansfield’s side will then hope to take another step towards retaining their Worsley Cup crown tomorrow when they travel to Blackburn Road to face Rishton in the quarter-final, before the club’s 25-year-old South African paid man welcomes fellow countryman Pieter Malan - along with his Ramsbottom team-mates - to town on Sunday for a crunch Lancashire League fixture.
“It’s not a pivotal part of our season but a big weekend would set us up for the remainder of the campaign,” Haasbroek said.
“We’ve lost twice to Rishton in the past couple of seasons and we only just beat them this year. They are always close games. They’ve got game changers in their squad and if they hit then they’ll give anybody a game.
“It would be great to get through to the next round of the cup because it’s good for the club. We’re determined to defend our crown this year. There isn’t any added pressure in being the holders due to the unpredictability of the competition. It only takes a few good performances and you’re through to the final.”
A four-wicket defeat to Enfield at the start of the month accentuated Accrington’s advantage at the top. However, Haasbroek won’t be giving up the chase this early in the season.
“There’s 16 games left in the league, we’re only a third of the way through, so there’s still plenty to play for,” he said. “Winning the league is certainly not out of the picture. We still want to win every competition we’re in.
“It’s a very tight table and that’s what the Lancashire League is all about. Beating Ramsbottom would send out a message to the league that we are the team to beat. Ramsbottom are not one dimensional because their bowling attack is strong and they can bat deep in to the order as well which makes them a threat.”
Meanwhile, Bharat Tripathi’s Burnley will be hoping to get their first Twenty20 triumph on the board when they face Colne at the Horsfield tonight. Burnley then host Ramsbottom in the Worsley Cup tomorrow at Turf Moor, start 1 p.m., before taking on league leaders Accrington at Thorneyholme Road.
In the Ribblesdale Cricket League, Read skipper Kyle O’Connor feels he’s finally adapting to the pressure and responsibility of captaincy.
After firing 393 runs last term in 23 outings, O’Connor is already well on his way to surpassing that total as his unbeaten 43 versus newcomers Brooksbottom took him to 252 from nine games.
Now, with Read just two points shy of leaders Clitheroe, O’Connor is hoping his contribution will help his side end a succession of runner-up finishes in the division. I’m finally getting some runs under my belt so I’m happy,” he beamed. “I obviously want to improve on last year but with my current rate I’m looking at 500 or 600. I just seem to be more positive and more confident in myself.
“I’m in my second year as captain and feel I’ve grown in to the role now. You focus on everything and everyone else at first because the finger gets pointed at you if things don’t go to plan. But I can concentrate on myself and the team now.”
Ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Barnoldswick at Whalley Road, O’Connor added: “It would be nice to beat Barnoldswick. The last time we beat them in the league was at the beginning of 2010 so it’s been a while.
“We just want to pull away from them and get some breathing space. They are still a very strong side so it will be tough.”
Elsewhere, Callum Clarke’s Padiham will be hoping to drag themselves out of the darkened depths of the bottom two when they take on Whalley at Station Road tomorrow.