Heaton expects Lowerhouse to fight for honours
The Liverpool Road stalwart hasn’t seen anything to suggest otherwise in the embryonic stages of the 2017 term.
Though they recently exited the Worsley Cup, the West Enders are flying high in the Lancashire League after four games.
Alongside East Lancashire and Todmorden, the 2014 champions are joint leaders with 37 points.
“We had a bit of a setback in the cup but in all fairness we were beaten by a side that played very well on the day,” said Heaton. “The professional (Andries Gous) was outstanding as well and it was one of the best innings that I’ve seen.
“But I thought that we would be challenging in pre-season and I haven’t seen anything that would make me change my opinion.”
The club experienced a change of leadership in the winter, with Ben Heap replacing the successful Charlie Cottam, while a couple of new faces bolstered the squad, including professional Ockert Erasmus.
And, as far as Heaton is concerned, it’s so far, so good. “We’re very pleased so far,” he said. “Ockert has come in and done everything that we signed him for. We’re happy with that.
“Ben has also started very well and it’s important for a captain’s confidence to do that. He’s settled in to the role well, he’s enjoying it and he’s proactive.
“He’s got a tough act to follow in Charlie Cottam who is the club’s most successful captain ever.
“But a change brings a new impetus and new ideas. Everyone is having to prove themselves to the new captain so they’ve all upped their game.
“We’ve made some decent signings. Toxy (Hussain) has settled in well, he’s bowled economically while taking wickets. They’ve all brought something new to the party.”
Sunday spawns a top-of-the-table clash at Centre Vale and the hosts boast a paid man in inspired form.
South African Kelly Smuts has already accrued 388 runs in the Lancashire League this season. “He’s due a failure and let’s hope it comes on Sunday,” Heaton said.
“We are confident that we will play well and if we do that then we are confident of winning. But the East Lancs pro had a tremendous innings and it seems that Kelly Smuts is capable of doing the same. We’ve got to be wary of that.”