Bradford League: Congs rescue campaign as Cleckheaton take title

Bradford League Division One champions Cleckheaton. PIC: Steve Riding
Bradford League Division One champions Cleckheaton. PIC: Steve Riding
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chalk AND cheese is the phrase of choice when describing Pudsey Congs’ top-flight campaign, writes LEON WOBSCHALL.

Eight games in by the end of May and there were genuine fears the league heavyweights could suffer the ignominy of relegation, with Gareth Phillips’ side propping up the division and 15 points from safety with no wins to their name.

But summer has proved much more pleasurable for Congs, who have finished the season in eighth place, beating the likes of champions Cleckheaton – who were presented with the league trophy on Saturday – along the way.

All told, Congs have picked up 156 points from 14 league matches from May 31, a haul bettered only by Cleck (189) and New Farnley (167).

While comparatively speaking, eighth spot is still a lowly position that Congs certainly are not accustomed too, spokesperson Ralph Middlebrook is confident the side, with just a few tweaks in the close season, can be a force again in 2015.

Middlebrook said: “We have had two seasons in one.

“One where hardly anything went right and the second half where we played quite well and beat Cleckheaton and Pudsey St Lawrence.

“Relegation was a possibility, of course it was. We did not think it would happen though and we have come good.

“Batting-wise, we stuttered, but have come good in the end.

“Callum Geldart and co have played a lot better and Callum has had an outstanding season. On the bowling front, young James Pearson had spearheaded things well and young Mustafa (Rafique) who is only 16, has come on leaps and bounds.

“Nick Lindley, Andrew Bairstow and Joe Greaves have also contributed. The captain as well and who would have thought in April that he would have bowled so many miserly overs and picked up useful wickets, which was a huge bonus.

“Gareth has also come on as captain and is much calmer and also hit some huge sixes.

“We are confident about next season that we can be a force. One club say they will lose eight players and we are not in that position.

“Apart from looking for a new keeper with Andrew Bairstow just playing as a batsman next season and replacing Glenn (Roberts) – two big shoes to fill of course – the side will be staying together.”

Congs stalwart Roberts played his final game for the club in their rain-hit clash with Bradford and Bingley on Saturday, on a near wash-out of a weekend.

The ex-captain has retired from playing to take up umpiring duties and Middlebrook has paid tribute to his impact at Congs over his 14-year association.

On Roberts, who has become a life-member of the club, he added: “Glenn has played for Pudsey Congs through thin and thin and thick as well and won every title you can win and his tactical awareness and coaching skills have been invaluable as well.”

Play was possible in just three Division One games on Saturday, with Congs reaching 150-1 from 24.2 overs against Farsley, with Geldart (72no) signing of 2014 with a flourish, supported by Lindley (45).

Sixteen overs took place at Cleck, who made 137-7 against Bradford and Bingley before the elements intervened, with skipper John Wood - fresh from lifting the title before the start of the game - hitting an unbeaten 36.

Woodlands, who finished as runners-up, reached 15-1 versus relegated Yeadon ahead of the rain.

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