Bradford League: Saints are facing a key period says Smith
PUDSEY ST Lawrence may hold a decidedly healthy looking 26-point lead at the top of the ECB Bradford Premier League at its halfway point, but the advert of July brings a warning with it.
This time last year, James Smith’s side were also sitting pretty at the top of the table, but that was the prelude to an edgy run of results which tightened up proceedings somewhat.
In the final analysis, the Tofts Road outfit got back on track last August en route to silverware – although a run of three league defeats in four games last July to Woodlands, New Farnley and Hanging Heaton did set off a few alarm bells.
In terms of warnings, it is perhaps a timely one for St Lawrence ahead of high summer, which starts off with a trip to New Farnley tomorrow.
After Saturday, St Lawrence’s July league roster features games against Farsley, Woodlands and Scholes before they finish off the month with a summit meeting at Bennett Lane against nearest rivals Hanging Heaton – with Smith admitting that the complexion of proceedings could change by the start of August. There’s also the not so small matter of a Priestley Cup semi-final at Scholes or Lightcliffe on July 17, with the ‘Top-Enders’ seeking to keep their hopes of a rarefied double intact.
Smith, whose side have lost just once in 11 league outings in 2016 and look a strong bet to lift top-flight silverware for the second season on the spin, said: “We have got a lot of learning to take from last year when at the midway part of the season, the other teams started to close the gap on us.
“We knew that there are teams who can push us all the way and outperform us. We have to battle and graft for results. We have to keep fighting for every point and result.”
On tomorrow’s trip to New Farnley, who reside in fourth place in the table, having lost just once since mid-May, Smith added: “New Farnley have hit a bit of a patch and have a very good team with some very good players and it is a dangerous place.
“We follow that with Farsley at home and then Woodlands away and we end July at Hanging Heaton.
“The next half dozen games will give us a real good clue at to whether we are real contenders to back up last year or whether other teams are going to come strong.
“I suppose it is a crunch time similar to last year when we lost form and we will want to avoid that and learn from last year’s downfall. If you get complacent, you can get beaten. Morley nearly turned us over at home the other week. Every team can come good on their day and the league is so strong and there’s a hell of a lot of cricket to be played.”
Just as with last season, St Lawrence’s charge has been buttressed by some fine top-order contributions from the likes of Mark Robertshaw, Adam Waite and Smith.
But the Saints captain also believes their bowlers deserve plenty of plaudits.
He added: “I think our bowling has been better than last year.
“We have really shone with the ball. “Richie Lamb has been exceptional from a seamers point of view and the spinners keep doing what they do - control games.
“They take wickets, but the way that they don’t leak many runs have been a real help.”