WHEN IT comes to their quest to pinch the Bradford League title, Hanging Heaton are drinking in the last-chance saloon.
The Bennett Laners are the outsiders in the four-way tussle for silverware in Division One and face a must-win fixture at another championship aspirant in third-placed Cleckheaton tomorrow, mindful that a defeat will end their hopes.
A two-wicket loss at Pudsey Congs last weekend, when the Tewits paid the price for dropped catches, lengthened their title odds, with good contributions from David Stiff (51no) and John Carruthers (4-32) counting for nothing.
The upshot is that fourth-placed Heaton find themselves 25 points behind leaders Pudsey St Lawrence with three games to go, with Gary Fellows’ side being 10 points behind Cleck – who they could leapfrog with victory tomorrow – and 15 in arrears of second-placed Woodlands.
While the title may look a tall order for the Tewits, stranger things have happened, with the Batley-based side having winnable games against Farsley and Undercliffe to come in the final fortnight of a compelling campaign.
Fellows’ troops certainly showcased their talents in an impressive four-wicket victory over Cleck earlier in the season, thanks to some key contributions from Dan Busfield (6-60) and Nick Connolly (56).
But in comparison to a patchy first half of the campaign, Cleck are currently running hot on the back of a turbo-charged run of seven wins in their last eight fixtures, with Heaton faced with beating the division’s form side if they are to keep alive their title quest.
Fellows said: “Saturday’s result puts us in the back of the queue if you like. But with three games to go, you never know what can happen.
“It may be unlikely, but we have just to concentrate on our three games and get as many points as we possibly can.
“We always felt that if we could be in it in the last two or three games, we’d be in with a shout.
“Saturday’s performance wasn’t good enough, but we have three big games left, starting with this weekend and things can still turn.
“Obviously, Cleckheaton are right in the mix and they will be up for it as we will be and we have to try and match them.
“It’s up to us to put in a performance if we want to get back into the race to compensate for what happened at the weekend.”
The smart money may be on Heaton just falling short this term, but whatever occurs, the club can look back on another encouraging campaign, according to Fellows.
He said: “If we don’t finish top of the league, we still want to finish as high up the league as we possibly can.
“In certain parts and areas in games, we have let ourselves down.
“But as a team and as a club, we are improving and the fact we are challenging for the title is encouraging and we have had something to play for every week.”
IF RELEGATION-HAUNTED Farsley require some inspiration, surely this weekend’s Bradford League fixture list has delivered it.
The second-from-bottom Red Laners are pitted in a desperate battle to avoid the Division One drop and welcome rock-bottom Saltaire this weekend.
It’s a huge Saturday for Farsley, who are 12 points adrift of safety behind third-placed Lightcliffe, who face fellow strugglers East Bierley tomorrow – where someone will drop points.
The other side in the relegation mix in Undercliffe have a tall order at home to title-chasing Woodlands, with Farsley under no illusions that only a win will do tomorrow.
At the top end, leaders Pudsey St Lawrence visit Bradford and Bingley and Pudsey Congs welcome New Farnley.
In the second division, Morley’s promotion could be confirmed if they triumph at basement boys Idle and third-placed Baildon slip up at Hartshead Moor.
It’s a big weekend double-header for Yorkshire Academy, who host ECB Yorkshire League leaders Barnsley tomorrow before facing the same opponents on home soil on Sunday in the semi-finals of the League Cup – with the winners facing York in the final.