PUDSEY ST LAWRENCE captain James Smith is calling on his side to ‘raise the bar’ in tomorrow’s Priestley Cup showpiece with favourites Cleckheaton at Undercliffe CC (noon start).
Regarding form heading into the clash, it’s a case of chalk and cheese with John Wood’s Cleck in imperious form and well placed for a treble of trophies, including their first-ever Priestley Cup success and Smith’s Saints having endured a recent slump to fall out of title contention in the top-flight of the Bradford League.
That was most spectacularly manifested last weekend when they were skittled for a derisory 56 in a poor loss to New Farnley, following back-to-back losses to Pudsey Congs and Farsley.
Now Smith, top of the cup batting averages with 61 this season and who steered five-time winners Saints to their last triumph over East Bierley in 2011, is hoping the famous competition brings out the best in his side.
On the clash against Cleck, finalists in 2007 when they lost to Congs, Smith said: “Cleckheaton have been the best team for the past few years. They got over the line to win the league last year and that was well overdue, I think.
“They have set the bar and we have to match them.
“On our day, we can match them, but we will have to raise the bar quite high to do that.”
Specifically on his side’s recent form, he added: “It’s been a bit of a let-down and the last three weeks have been well below our standard as we wanted to go into the final with a bit of momentum.
“We need to perform to our standards. We have not been doing that and other teams have played to the best of their ability and beating us very, very comprehensively.
“We are a good side and that is why the last few weeks has been so disappointing. With the lads we have in that dressing room, it hurts to lose games so badly – especially against three local rivals for three weeks running.
“There has been some harsh words and no-one has escaped the criticism really. We know how good we can be and we have played some good cricket, but have just decided not to turn up for the past three weeks. Someone said the other week that we seem to do well in the first half of the season, but when it comes to the second half, seem to have a trait where we finish really weakly and obviously, we don’t want things to peter out into nothing.
“If it does not go our way on Sunday and we don’t improve in the league, we are going to end up in mid-table and with nothing to crow about.
“We have got lots of pride to restore.”
The rearranged Waddilove Cup final between Collingham and Otley takes place at Otley tomorrow.