Bradford League: Cleckheaton’s arch rivals Woodlands are the ‘team to beat’

Woodlands batsman 'Pieter Swanepoel. PIC: Steve Riding
Woodlands batsman 'Pieter Swanepoel. PIC: Steve Riding
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CLECKHEATON may be chasing their own Bradford League title dynasty, but they are crystal-clear on one thing.

Namely that their near neighbours and arch rivals Woodlands are marked out as the team they have to beat and finish above, first and foremost, if they are to be cracking open the champagne in September.

The number of contenders vying for silverware is likely to be increased this year in what genuinely looks to be the most competitive race for the title in years, with the likes of Pudsey St Lawrence and Pudsey Congs thrown into the mix, with New Farnley and Hanging Heaton also potential dark horses.

But for Cleckheaton, seeking a hat-trick of league championships this year, Woodlands are still the benchmark.

The rivals lock horns at Moorend tomorrow, with fifth-placed Cleck 13 points behind second-placed Woodlands, who trail early leaders Pudsey Saints by a further nine points after five matches.

It promises to be an intriguing encounter between the rivals, who have produced some memorable encounters in the past few years.

None more so than the clash at Cleck in April 2014, when Woodlands’ Safraz Ahmed took wickets with the first two balls of the final over as the heavyweight clash between the duo ended in a tie.

Then, there was the final-day encounter at Albert Terrace in September 2013 when Cleck lost to Woodlands, who were themselves chasing a third successive title and seventh in nine years – but still lifted the big prize with Yorkshire duo Andrew Gale and Tim Bresnan present among the crowd.

On the latest heavyweight clash between the pair, Cleck spokesperson Kevin Mitchell said: “Even though we have won the title for the last two years, we still think that realistically the team you have to beat are Woodlands

“Woodlands are a quality team who never know when they are beaten and have a team of characters such as Bricey (Chris Bricey), Saffy (Safraz Ahmed) and Swanny (Pieter Swanepoel).

“They are the sort of side that even when you are on top, they can pull a rabbit out of the hat.

“What we can say is that our rivalry with Woodlands is friendly and we have a great deal of respect for them, although I also think that this year, there are a number of genuine title contenders.”

The fixture list has afforded struggling Farsley few favours tomorrow with the Red Lane outfit due in at leaders Pudsey Saints, still smarting after their dismal display at Bradford and Bingley, which saw them dismissed for a derisory 70.

Farsley are still awaiting their first win of the season and are one of three teams yet to record a league victory along with Saltaire and Undercliffe.

Third-placed Pudsey Congs, enjoying a much better start to the one they produced 12 months ago, welcome Saltaire.

Hanging Heaton, in mid-table, are aiming to hit back after league and cup losses to Pudsey Saints in last weekend’s double-header when they play host to Lightcliffe.

East Bierley head to Undercliffe and New Farnley go to Bradford and Bingley.

Morley visit Scholes in Division Two, while a derby sees Gomersal play host to Spen Victoria. Yeadon host Baildon.