LOWERHOUSE are Lancashire League leaders.
Even without the alliterative tense, that phrase would be a welcoming sound to many of the town’s cricket fanatics.
The West Enders find themselves bottom of the consolidated league table, which runs from 1892, having played 3,028, won 892 and lost 1,263 and they have won the title just once in that time in 2005.
Players, officials and representatives at the Liverpool Road club will be savouring their current league position, but chairman Stan Heaton continues to impose realism and insists there’s still a long journey ahead.
“There’s still an awfully long way to go,” he said. “There’s still plenty of teams that look deadly; Ramsbottom are coming back after a couple of hiccups and then there’s Accrington, Todmorden and Haslingden. The top seven are probably still in contention. I think consistency is going to be the key and head-to-head matches are going to be vital.”
Lowerhouse, who are equal on points with Accrington at the top, entertain mid-table Rawtenstall this weekend and they’ll be hoping to generate a bit of a cushion at the summit.
“Rawtenstall will be looking to get the double over us,” Heaton said. “They beat us in a low-scoring game earlier in the season but that will just make us more determined to win this one. We’ve got plenty of players bang in form; we are not scraping victories, we are winning well.”
Rivals Burnley travel to Todmorden on Sunday and a shock at Centre Vale could really do Lowerhouse a huge favour: “It would be helpful if Burnley could beat Todmorden for us but they had a chance of doing us a favour against Accrington last week as well but they were well beaten. We’ve just got to focus on ourselves.”
Elsewhere, the three-horse race in the Ribblesdale League is still cantering away at a steady pace, though the competitors look poised for a Grandstand finish.
For Read, who travel to fourth place Whalley, it’s a massive fixture which has been amplified by the fact that league leaders Barnoldswick take on third place Baxenden at Victory Park tomorrow.
“Ideally if we can record a win and Baxenden turn Barnoldswick over then we could be top which is a great position to be in at this stage of the season,” said Read skipper Warren Eastham.
“You don’t win leagues in the second weekend of July though. There’s three good sides challenging for the title and we’ve still got both of them to come.”
He added: “I think we’ve had our little blip now because we seem much stronger. The three-horse race has flipped a bit this weekend and we are in striking distance again. We want to hit the top of the table sooner rather than later.”
Richard Palmer’s Whalley had won 10 games from 13 before the weekend but defeats to Padiham in the league and Ribblesdale Wanderers in the Ramsbottom Cup semi-final could have hit them hard.
Meanwhile, Read continue to progress under Eastham’s guidance and a league victory over Clitheroe coupled with a Ramsbottom Cup win over Baxenden has seen that momentum intensified.
“Whalley are always a slippery side and are capable of beating anybody when they hit form,” Eastham said. “They’ve got a mix of experience and they’ve been consistent with their team selection for a few years now. They’ve got a great pro (Kamran Younas) who bowls very economically most of the time.
“But we have to take every game as it comes. We can’t roll in to town with complacency and expect to win every game so we will give them the respect they deserve. Dave O’Neill is a good bowler and someone with vast experience because he’s been playing for the last 30 years. He just seems to keep going and bowling away. He picks wickets up at a consistent rate and can be a handful.”
Eastham added: “Whalley is a tough place to go and win. Lee Kearsley is always a thorn in our side as is Declan Fitzhenry. They’ve got players who know their roles and when they combine it can be detrimental to their opponents.
“But if we bowl the right length and bat properly then there should be enough talent in the side to see us home. Read have started now and this weekend was a sign of how we can perform. Everything has just clicked for us.”
And should Whalley fall at the hands of Read, John Bushell’s Padiham will be waiting to swoop as they take on Lancashire Knockout qualifying candidates Ribblesdale Wanderers.
Just two points separate the two sides and Bushell is aware of the fixture’s importance when they meet at Church Meadow tomorrow. He said: “It’s a big game for us to focus on because they are in that tight group of teams chasing fourth spot. Ribblesdale are a good side and they beat us earlier in the season. It was a good game then and I know both teams have certainly improved since.”
Ian Britcliffe’s Wanderers came out on top last time as they claimed a narrow 15-run victory on the second game of the season. But Padiham’s development throughout the season has been constant and Bushell will be looking to build on that.
“No doubt it will be an evenly contested game and we’ll set out to play positive cricket in a similar manner to what we have done recently,” Bushell said. “A victory would take us very close to fourth spot and we’d look to push on with a consistent run of results from there.”
l BURNLEY’S Under 11s B suffered their first defeat of the season against top of the table Rishton.
Having won the toss and elected to field, captain Jake Blakey got off to a good start, taking the wicket of the opposing skipper.
After the bright start however, Rishton took every opportunity to score runs with some excellent quick singles and aggressive running.
One more wicket was taken as Mohammed Jawaad executing a superb direct run out from short third man.
Rishton posted a formidable total of 299, which proved too much for a side missing the talismanic Adam Khan, who has seen his early season form rewarded with a promotion into the A team.