IT may HAVE been a tough-looking opening to the Bradford League season for Hanging Heaton, but the fixtures afford no respite tomorrow – and won’t for much of the campaign either.
The Tewits, seeking to marry their burgeoning cup prowess with progress in the league, visit champions Cleckheaton today, having also faced toughies with Woodlands and ambitious new boys New Farnley so far.
With the margins between the majority of sides looking smaller than it has for many years, minus perhaps Yeadon – who look destined for a season of struggle – ‘free’ weekends are unlikely to be on the menu between now and September.
For Gary Fellows’ Heaton, who finished too close to the relegation positions than they would have wished in 2013, it means improvement in league form is a necessity, given that they aim to be fighting on a number of fronts this summer.
The Bennett Laners are seeking to defend the Heavy Woollen Cup – they visit Kirkburton on Sunday – and go far in the ECB National Cup.
They are also intent on going one step further in the Priestley Cup, having lost in the final to Lightcliffe last August, although they gained a delicious spot of revenge by beating them in the first round last weekend.
But the league remains the bread and butter and they face a Cleck side who beat them twice in the league in 2013 tomorrow.
A club spokesperson said: “Traditionally, East Bierley is the big derby for Hanging Heaton, Pudsey St Lawrence as well.
“When we joined the league in the eighties, Bierley were the top side, while St Lawrence has also been a rivalry. But obviously, Cleckheaton are the champions and the team everyone wants to beat.
“They will find that this year and everyone will have to be at the top of their game to beat them. That’s the be-all and end-all.
“I remember we played them two years ago and Iain Wardlaw bowled one of the quickest spells of bowling I have seen at Hanging Heaton and tore us apart.
“But we actually beat Cleck en route to the Priestley Cup final last year, although lost twice to them in the league.
“But we have made a lot of changes this year, with changes to the batting order with the likes of (David) Paynter coming in and Ben Elvidge from Yeadon.
“In terms of the league, we have made an indifferent start. But Woodlands first up away is never easy and New Farnley was tough.
“Now we have Cleck, who are the team to beat, although they have already had one tie and one loss with teams upping their game to play the champions.
“Looking at the league, apart from Yeadon, who look a poor side, anyone can beat anyone on their day and you could find the champions come from maybe five or six clubs.
“The competitiveness will certainly make the Bradford League the best in Yorkshire. There will be intensity in games week-in, week-out.”
Elsewhere, weather permitting, Pudsey St Lawrence will be aiming to continue their unbeaten start at Bradford & Bingley, as will Farsley at home to East Bierley.
Woodlands go to Morley, while Pudsey Congs will be seeking to arrest their poor start, at home to New Farnley. Winless Yeadon visit Lightcliffe.
The three early pacesetters in the top-flight of the Aire-Wharfe League are all on their travels, with Ilkley, Otley and Steeton heading to Kirkstall, Bilton and Beckwithshaw respectively.
Collingham and Guiseley visit Ben Rhydding and Burley. Rawdon welcome Pool. The top trio in the Premier Division have home comforts, with Wakefield Thornes, Scholes and Altofts entertaining Hunslet Nelson, Wrenthorpe and Hopton Mills. Birstall host Townville.
Pontefract League leaders Ackworth welcome Streethouse, while in the ECB Yorkshire League, Harrogate are attempting to make it five wins out of five at Cleethorpes. York and Yorkshire Academy play host to Doncaster and Barnsley, and Castleford entertain Rotherham.