AFTER a slow start to the season, Cleckheaton are showing signs of finally getting their act together.
Ahead of the beginning of the Bradford Premier League campaign, the smart money was on the Moorenders enduring a transitional and, at times difficult, season and early defeats to New Farnley, Woodlands and Farsley suggested exactly that.
But noteworthy recent victories against Pudsey St Lawrence and Townville have considerably lifted the mood and put John Wood’s side in a much better frame of mind ahead of the trip to face leaders and title favourites Hanging Heaton at Bennett Lane tomorrow.
Cricket secretary Bob Speight said: “We started badly and couldn’t get it going and lost our first three matches and then got knocked out of the cup. But since then, we have not lost and have beaten two of the top-three teams.
“Saturday was a timely win, there’s no doubt about it. It has built a bit of confidence in the side. We do have one or two batsmen who are still not quite hitting their straps and it just happens sometimes. But with a bit of confidence, things will improve.
“John (Wood) believes that we are just starting to play some good cricket again and we believe that we will certainly finish better than how we started. We are growing into the season with a good spin bowler who is finding his feet and it makes a lot of difference when you can tie an end up. It puts a lot of pressure on a batsman.
“We are trying to build again. Not everything is working right. But it is still one of those leagues where anyone can beat anyone. I wouldn’t put it past us to beat a team like Hanging Heaton and then inviting Batley over and losing to them! Scholes were relegated last season, but beat us twice.”
Anchoring Cleck’s effort again this season is Wood, who is endeavouring to keep the Moorenders on an even keel after a mixed past few seasons and leading by example again with the bat.
The former Durham batsman hit a gutsy 41 in last weekend’s 11-run win over champions St Lawrence and is the club’s top run-scorer again so far this season with a solid average of just under 41.
Speight added: “John is a bit long in the tooth, but having said that, he is our leading scorer this season. “He’s been coming in at number three and has usually been out there after two or three overs.
“He’s basically opening as our top two have not been in the best of form, although (Nick) Lindley is just now starting to put things together and get a bit of confidence. Other batsmen will hopefully do the same. But we still reckon we will be nearer the top than the bottom.”
AFTER cutting A dash in the Priestley Cup last weekend, no-one at New Farnley needs to be told twice that their Bradford Premier League form could now do with improving fast.
Farnley, who booked their place in the last eight of the cup competition with a nine-wicket demolition of East Bierley, are in league action at home to third-placed Farsley tomorrow.
They will be without their cup hero in Sweden-based Aussie Mitchell O’Connor, on international duty with Sweden, and he will also miss Sunday’s Heavy Woollen Cup third-round encounter, when the holders entertain 2015 winners Woodlands.
Farnley cricket manager Paul Hutchison said: “The start to the season has been massively up and down.
“We are very talented, but lack a bit of application at times.
“I think we are probably best targeting a cup. We won the Heavy Woollen Cup last year and because there is enough quality in the team, we will win games of cricket. But at the moment, we have not got enough consistency in terms of winning the league.
“We are nowhere near that, at the moment.”
Elsewhere, second-placed Townville call in at Woodlands, in fourth, and struggling Pudsey Congs go to Bradford and Bingley.
Batley visit Lightcliffe and Pudsey St Lawrence welcome East Bierley.
It promises to be a big day at the top of Championship 1 tomorrow with the top four squaring off.
Leaders Scholes welcome fourth-placed Morley, with second-placed Methley visiting the team just below them in Wrenthorpe.
In Championship 2, frontrunners Hartshead Moor head to third-placed Altofts.
Heavy Woollen Cup action takes centre stage on Sunday with Hanging Heaton hosting Townville, the third time this season that the sides have met after previous meetings in the league and Priestley Cup – with the Tewits winning on both occasions.
Wrenthorpe, winners of the cup five times in the past ten years, visit Huddersfield League side Kirkburton.
Whitley Hall, second round winners over Morley, host Hoylandswaine who have been beaten finalists for the past two years.