This has been one of the most demanding campaigns of cricket Burnley skipper Dan Pickup has endured.
Ever since his Lancashire League debut in 2002, the 33-year-old says he’s never had it as tough or as taxing.
That’s why becoming the inaugural winners of Division One would mean so much to the captain.
It all started with a solitary run against Enfield, batting at number seven, when caught by David Bracewell off former Lowerhouse professional Martin van Jaarsveld.
The league was made up of just 14 clubs then. Burnley had finished in the bottom half of the table. But now they are just three points away from sealing the championship.
“It’s been as tough a season of cricket that there’s been in the Lancashire League because you’re playing all the top teams twice,” said Pickup.
“The standard has been as good as I’ve known. It’s been hard work, but we must be doing something right.
“You’re up against it every single week. In previous seasons there were sides that would go on long, unbeaten runs, just as Walsden did last term.
“Every week you’re facing a tough challenge regardless of where the opposition is in the table. It’s been a demanding campaign and it’s going to be like that for the foreseeable future if this standard is maintained.”
He added: “It would probably be the best achievement of my career if we win it. It feels special to be in this position, it’s a real privilege.
“It would be massive for the club if we were to win it and it would mean a lot to the rest of the lads as well.
“It would be a huge achievement to be the inaugural winners. We’ve won it before, but it’s different this time around because of the standard.”
Burnley strengthened their grip on the title with a 53-run win over Church at Blackburn Road, capitalising on Lowerhouse’s slip at home to Clitheroe. Liam Bedford (44) and Joey Marshall (59) put on 91 for the second wicket as the visitors closed on 153-6.
Chris Holt then took 4-26 off 9.4 overs to keep the hosts at arm’s length while Joe McCluskie and Bharat Tripathi claimed a couple of wickets each.
Ahead of Sunday’s date with destiny, when they welcome Todmorden, Pickup said: “It’s in our hands. We’ve just got to put that to the back of our minds for now because we don’t want to get too preoccupied. We need to make sure we maintain our levels. We’ve done well to put ourselves in this position, although I would liked to have had it wrapped up a lot sooner. It’s good for the town that both teams are in really strong positions. It’s great to be involved in. It’s good when both sides are competing for silverware, it’s been a good rivalry again this year, but hopefully it’s our turn to get one over on them.
“It would be nice to finish the job off at home.”
Lowerhouse are the only club who can stop Burnley winning the Lancashire League title.
But Ben Heap’s side did themselves no favours on Sunday, as they were beaten by one wicket by Clitheroe at the Brooks Foundation Ground, leaving the West Enders 10 points behind their derby rivals, with one game remaining – Sunday’s trip to Ramsbottom.
Peter Dibb won the toss for Clitheroe and inserted Lowerhouse – with the weather halting their innings at 26.2 overs.
Skipper Ben Heap opened and put on 41 with Jonny Whitehead, who made 16 before being bowled by SamHalstead.
Heap and professionbal Ockert Erasmus added 25, but the South African was caught behind by Sam Mulligan off Thomas Lord for 15.
Dean Barlow followed nine runs later for a single, as Lord claimed a second wicket, but Heap closed out the innings unbeaten on 37, as he moved past 6,000 Lancashire League runs in the process.
Lowerhouse finished on 77-3.
Clitheroe’s target was 136 runs in 27 overs, and the visitors achieved that with a wicket and one ball remaining.
The top order all got starts for Clitheroe, with Lord making 11 before being first out at 20, trapped by Toxy Hussain.
Charlie Dewhurst followed for 18 at 39, again LBW to Hussain, but Clitheroe moved to 77 before Mulligan was run out by Heap for 21.
Professional Suraj Randiv hit 48 from 43 balls, before being fourth man out at 123, caught by Whitehead off Erasmus.
And though five more wickets fell in hitting the remaining 13 runs, as Dibb made 22, Clitheroe squeezed home.
Erasmus finished with 3-29, Hussain 2-31 and Francois Haasbroek 2-34.
Lowerhouse are four points clear of Walsden and eight ahead of Ramsbottom.