Testing day for the West Enders

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TODAY will be a very testing time for players and staff at Lowerhouse Cricket Club.

The West Enders will attend club stalwart Phil Astin’s funeral and pay their final respects to the popular Liverpool Road character before continuing their Lancashire League 20/20 journey against Colne on home soil.

Phil, who died from the result of a heart attack two weeks ago today, had a long and distinguished career with Lowerhouse, having been a first team cricketer since his teens. He played for the club over five decades, from the 1960s to 2000.

Chairman Stan Heaton said: “It will be a very sad day for everyone involved at Lowerhouse CC. It will also be a big test for the players who will go straight from the funeral in to a match.”

Meanwhile, Heaton believes that Charlie Cottam’s men will bounce back from the disappointment of falling from their Lancashire League perch after a short stay. And that comeback will start this weekend against Enfield.

“It was extremely disappointing,” Heaton said. “There were two bad defeats and one defeat we could have done without. Friday’s 20/20 loss to Nelson and Sunday’s game against Rawtenstall were the bad defeats. On Saturday we just didn’t get the rub of the green.

“We’ve won some games in the face of adversity and now we need to bounce back. We are capable of beating Enfield but any side can beat anyone else in the Lancashire League.”

Lowerhouse are still third with 70 points, just four points shy of table-topping Accrington who face Burnley on Sunday. But Heaton is happy to be out of the limelight just for now, so long as the West Enders remain within touching distance.

He said: “Being top means nothing so early in the season and if anything it makes sides more determined to knock you off your pedestal. It’s important to be there or there abouts and bubbling in the top four; we’re third now so we’re very pleased with that. We’re not the finished article yet so being where we are is a bonus.”

Steve Brunt’s Burnley side could do their rivals a huge favour if they cause an upset at Thorneyholme Road on Sunday.

But they’ll be more focussed on helping their own plight after defeat to Todmorden left them second-bottom. Brunt said: “I still maintain that we are playing decent cricket but we just don’t have the luck. Against Todmorden on Sunday we were in a great position and heading towards a 170-plus total. However, with seven overs left the rain came and changed the whole out look and courtesy of a revised target we got stuffed.

“Things just seem to be going against us at the moment and on occasions we’re not taking our chances. But a few wins will change the complexion completely. It will be a tough game for us on Sunday against the league leaders but we are capable of beating anybody and I hope we can prove that.”

The Turf Moor side boast just one win in eight Lancashire League fixtures though enacting revenge against Todmorden in the 20/20 tonight could be the perfect recipe for helping them escape the basement battle.

Brunt added: “Of course we want to get out of that bottom two, nobody ever wants to be down there. We’ve got an inexperienced first team but they will learn from the experience as they go along. There’s always pressure in cricket but our time will come soon. We’ve just got to fully exploit crucial moments in matches.”

Meanwhile, Padiham professional Chris Holt has praised Arbories skipper John Bushell ahead of tomorrow’s clash with lowly Salesbury.

Holt, who guided Read to runners-up in the Ribblesdale League last season and a spot in the final of the 20/20 competition, said: “He’s quality, a fantastic captain. He’s got loads of experience, gets on with everyone and always listens to their opinions. I can’t really speak highly enough of him, he’s a quality lad.

“After captaining Read last year I’d say our approach is quite similar. We get on well and we’ve got similar ideas so he’s great to work with. We both want success for Padiham Cricket Club.”

Padiham are currently floating in mid-table, though a victory over Jason Rawson’s strugglers could see them climb the table considerably. And, with talk of captaincy rife, a familiar face is set to return to help Padiham’s push in the form of last campaign’s skipper Anthony Hall.

Holt said: “Last year’s captain Anthony Hall is making a comeback to help us out because we are a couple of players down. I think they are an under-rated team and, like plenty of others in the league, they are capable of beating anyone on their day.

“If we play to the standard that we are capable of playing to then we will beat them. It’s important that we don’t under-estimate them but I’m confident of winning. We need to be winning games like this especially if we are looking for a top four finish.”

Read captain Warren Eastham feels the league is a three-horse race.

And Eastham believes that the odds of his Whalley Road side becoming champions will be slashed further following tomorrow’s fixture with third-place Barnoldswick.

He said: “On paper we have the strongest side in the league, and our results back that up, so we can really push on from here. Barnoldswick have only lost two this season and they are capable of beating anybody so we will have to be at the top of our game.

“If we can win tomorrow then we can turn the title chase in to a two-horse race and I have every confidence that we can do that. Nobody outside the top three is really pushing and a 34 point gap has now opened up between top and fourth.”

l Read CC are committed to helping to develop girls’ and women’s cricket in the local area, and are to host an open day on June 19th.

The current Read women’s XI play in the Northern Women’s League and have some places available immediately.

The club are also looking to build a group of players who can develop their skills and hopefully represent the team in future seasons.

Anyone aged six and over is welcome to attend.

Registration will take place between 9-30-10 a.m., and coaching and games will then start and continue until noon.

It is hoped to have a series of repeat sessions throughout the summer.

Please call Steve Lowes for further informatioon on 774174.