Lowerhouse have the mark of champions

Stand-in skipper: Ben Heap will replace the absent Charlie Cottam for Lowerhouse this weekend
Stand-in skipper: Ben Heap will replace the absent Charlie Cottam for Lowerhouse this weekend
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SOME say that a true test for potential champions is how they react to defeat.

Well if that concept is conceivable then Lowerhouse could be well on track in the defence of their Lancashire Cricket League crown.

As the division hit the halfway stage, the West Enders fell victim to a 34-run defeat at the hands of Accrington at Liverpool Road, their first loss of the campaign. Incidentally it was Accrington who inflicted Lowerhouse’s last defeat, in a 23-run triumph at Thorneyholme Road almost 11 months ago on August 27th, 2011.

After limiting the visitors to 102 on a testing surface, Paul Stansfield’s men seemed favourites to extend their impressive unbeaten run. However, courtesy of the heroics of professional Ashar Zaidi and David Ormerod, who claimed five wickets apiece, the ‘House were bowled out for less than 100 for the first time in over 12 months when Rawtenstall extinguished their batting order for 76 at the Worswick Memorial Ground.

“I can’t remember us being bowled out for less than 100 for a long time,” said coach Stansfield. “To be fair Accrington bowled really well and the conditions suited them. It was a difficult track to bat on and they had the ideal bowlers in their pro Ashar Zaidi and David Ormerod to see us off.

“Realistically we knew we weren’t going to win every single game during the season. It’s a very competitive league and there’s a collection of very good pros and amateurs within every team.”

But Lowerhouse refused to let that wound hinder their progress and 24 hours later they responded with victory over Rishton at Blackburn Road. “I was delighted with how we bounced back,” beamed Stansfield. “It was a much better performance against Rishton who gave us nothing and made us work for the victory. It wasn’t until the final 10 overs that we started to get on top of them. Until that point it was very much in the balance.”

And the weekend provides another enticing serving of fixtures with 2010 champions Ramsbottom and second place Enfield, just five points behind the leaders having played a game extra, providing the opposition. The games will be played at Acre Bottom tomorrow and on home soil on Sunday.

“Ramsbottom have got Jon Fielding who has picked up 100 wickets for the last two seasons and their pro Pieter Malan who is one of the top scoring batsmen,” he said. “They’ve definitely got quality players in their ranks but they’ve been inconsistent and hopefully we’ll catch them on a bad day.

“Enfield have a very good pro in Werner Coetsee. He’s a great bowler and very good with the bat. But they’ve also got captain Adam Bracewell and Nasser Hussain who have been performing very well so we’ll have to be at our best. It’s very tight now in the league so it’s a big game.”

Stansfield added: “We are only halfway through so there’s still a long way to go yet and plenty of points at stake. At the moment any of the top six will still feel capable of winning it. Any team that can put a run together now has a chance. If we can get through this weekend unscathed then I’ll be confident.”

Meanwhile, Bharat Tripathi’s Burnley have the comfort of two home fixtures over the double-header weekend.

Turf Moor had proved somewhat of a fortress for Burnley, but their run of three successive wins was brought crashing to an end in a two-run loss to lowly Rawtenstall. That defeat was then coupled with a 29-run reverse at the hands of Ramsbottom, but this weekend gives them the ideal opportunity to freshen up their home form. High-flying Accrington are the visitors tomorrow while Rishton make the journey to Turf Moor on Sunday.

Elsewhere in the Houldsworth Solicitors Ribblesdale Cricket League, Read first team skipper Kyle O’Connor believes this could be a good year for the club.

Whalley Road’s first string are still in the hunt for the league title and travel to Blackburn Old Road on Sunday for 20/20 finals day while the second XI top their table and have reached the final of the Lawrenson Cup.

Read face hosts Great Harwood in the second semi at 2-15 p.m., with Oswaldtwistle or Settle lying in wait for the victor. The final is scheduled to start at 5-30 p.m.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” said O’Connor. “The amateurs have really seen us through in this competition, particularly with the ball, because we’ve only had the luxury of our pro Jordan Clark once. Mohammed Jamal has done the business with the bat as well.

“The 20/20 competition goes on all day so hopefully there’ll be a lot of people attending. It’s always good to be involved in a finals day and we’ll hope to make the most of it.”

O’Connor added: “Great Harwood are without Russell Whalley who will be a big loss for them. Out of the three other sides I’d say they pose the toughest test. If we beat them then I’ll be very confident from that point.

“All being well a trophy will push us again in the league title race. It would be great to pick up some silverware at this point of the season and it will give us the confidence to go again. With the second XI top of the league and in the final of the Lawrenson Cup it could be a great year for Read as a club.”

First for Read though is a league fixture at home to fifth place Settle tomorrow. And O’Connor is wary of the opposition’s danger men after paid man Mansoor Amjad tore Padiham apart at the weekend with a century and three wickets.

“That’s a big game for us,” he said. “I’d back us against anyone at home to be honest. There’ll be no margin for error when balling for either side with it being a smaller ground because both sides have strength in the batting order. We need to get on top of them nice and early to put them under pressure and come away with the points we need.”

He added: “Edward Read and their pro Mansoor Amjad have been performing very well for them with the ball and I’d say Aneeq Hassan and Amjad are the dangers with the bat.

“We need to continue the way we have been doing and hopefully another committed team performance will see us through. We need to keep applying that pressure on Barnoldswick at the top. It is a bit repetitive but we’ve climbed 15 points clear of Baxenden now so we are pushing forward.”

Elsewhere, Padiham will be looking to put the disappointment of defeat to Settle behind them by resurrecting their charge for fourth spot with victory over Earby at the Arbories tomorrow.L