REWIND the clock a few seasons and the sight of Pudsey Congs healthily positioned near the Bradford League summit and Farsley toiling at the opposite end was a pretty common one.
But ‘the times they are a changing’, with the boot now increasingly on the other foot.
As it stands, it is Farsley who are the ones firmly in the shake-up for silverware in 2017 – for the second season running – while Congs are nervously looking the other way.
Five places separated the pair at the end of 2016 with the Red Laners finishing in third spot after a strong and uplifting campaign and Congs ending in an underwhelming eighth position.
As it stands, ahead of tomorrow’s encounter at the Britannia Stadium, the gap is even more pronounced with Farsley flying high in second position and Congs battling for their top-flight lives in second-from-bottom, with the pair currently separated by a hefty 90 points at just past the halfway mark of the season.
The need for points for both sides – albeit for wholly contrasting reasons – is there for all to see ahead of tomorrow’s meeting of the neighbours, and Congs chairman Ralph Middlebrook is under no illusions as to the extent of the task ahead for the hosts.
The reverse fixture proved one to forget for Congs at the end of April with the visitors dismissed for just 80 at Red Lane, en route to a six-wicket loss, with Chris Henry and Mustafa Rafique in the wickets for the hosts.
Farsley head into the game in fine fettle after a weekend double which saw them beat Pudsey St Lawrence to book their place in the last four of the Priestley Cup and keep their title quest on track with a 59-run triumph over basement club Batley.
Congs, meanwhile, suffered an agonising one-run defeat to Woodlands, a game in which they showed commendable spirit, but failed to collect a bounty of points, despite good contributions from the likes of James Ford and Zahid Nissar.
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s game, Middlebrook said: “Farsley are the only ones who have a chance of going for the double now and with them and Hanging Heaton and St Lawrence, they are three good sides.
“(Dan) Hodgson is a good cricketer and experienced and (James) Wainman is a quality left-arm quick bowler and their overseas (James) Price has got runs consistently over the past season or so.
“For us, if we can bowl as well as we can and field as well as we have been, by and large, and keep them to 220, we might have a chance.
“We are in there fighting.”
Elsewhere tomorrow, leaders Heaton and reigning champions St Lawrence, who saw their league and Priestley Cup hopes end at the weekend, are both afforded home comforts.
The Tewits – seven points clear at the top – host Bradford and Bingley, while fourth-placed St Lawrence, who suffered in a tough test last weekend which saw them lose successive matches, welcome Lightcliffe.
THE FIXTURE list has not been particularly kind to faltering Cleckheaton tomorrow.
The Moorenders are in the depths of a slump with memories of their Bradford League top-flight triumphs in 2013 and 2014 starting to become increasingly distant, and their contemporary thoughts being all about not being embroiled in the relegation dogfight for the rest of the season.
All told, John Wood’s side have lost their past four matches, with batting proving a particular bugbear.
Matters came to a head in last weekend’s abysmal defeat to another side who have flattered to deceive in the Bradford Premier League for the most part so far this season in New Farnley, with Cleck dismissed for a paltry 86.
They have failed to reach 150 since their last victory – a fine success over Pudsey St Lawrence on June 3 – and Wood’s troops face a ‘toughie’ at home to near-neighbours Woodlands tomorrow.
Games between the pair in several previous campaigns have carried plenty of significance at the top end of the table, but this time around, Cleck’s concern is about stopping the rot, with the Moorend outfit being just one place – and 11 points – above the team occupying the final relegation slot in Pudsey Congs. And there’s another arduous game coming up against Farsley next weekend.
Elsewhere tomorrow, Batley welcome Townville and New Farnley visit East Bierley.
Championship One action sees leaders Scholes go to sixth-placed Yeadon, while third-placed Methley welcome the team just above them, Morley.
Second-placed Wrenthorpe, 12 points adrift of Scholes, go to Bankfoot.
Runaway Championship Two leaders Hartshead Moor are seeking a round dozen tomorrow when they make the short trip to fifth-placed Liversedge. Danny Squire’s side – 53 points clear at the summit – have won their opening 11 matches and are the only unbeaten side in the Bradford League.
Elsewhere, third hosts fourth with Hunslet Nelson facing Altofts, with the pair being currently separated by just a solitary point.