For Pudsey St Lawrence’s two-times championship winning captain James Smith, Townville’s eye-catching start to the Bradford Premier League season comes as no shock, even if he and his side will be aiming to do their level best to curtail the Castleford outfit’s rise at Poplar Avenue tomorrow afternoon.
Third-placed Townville are currently eight points above St Lawrence and 15 adrift of leaders Hanging Heaton – and their lofty position is certainly by no means a fluke with the likes of Jack Hughes, Jonathan Booth and Conor Harvey having all excelled so far this season in the club’s strong beginning to top-flight life.
Under no illusions about the extent of St Lawrence’s task tomorrow and what they will be facing, Smith, seeking to lift the title for a third successive year, said: “The league is probably tougher than ever this season with the likes of Townville showing their strength.
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“They are not a surprise package for me because I have looked at their players and how they have performed last year. They were always going to be competitive at the least and obviously they are now challenging.
“There were a few people in certain quarters saying that Townville only won the championship last season. But you can’t knock people who score heavily or take a lot of cricket at whatever level of cricket is put in front of them.
“They won quite convincingly in the championship and it is quite competitive down there and they have come into this league and shown that they have got some experienced players who have can play Bradford League cricket in the top division.
“They have also got a decent overseas bowler and a couple of lads who are stalwarts in Jonathan Booth and Jack Hughes, who are performing again.
“They have got the ability and there’s nothing wrong with the championship as it does give you that winning mentality.”
St Lawrence may be slightly off the pace as it stands in fourth, but Smith remains quietly confident about his side’s overall hopes – more especially if they manage to prosper in a triple-header of away games which sees them visit Townville and leaders Hanging Heaton on successive weekends before visiting Bradford & Bingley.
He said: “We got turned over heavily by Woodlands and that was a wake-up call in itself in that things were not going to fall into place and people were going to roll over because we’d won back-to-back championships.
“The lads have really enjoyed the past two seasons in winning the league and want a piece of it again. But sometimes it gets a little bit lost as to the hard work that has to go in, to do it again.
“The league is a lot tougher and we can’t expect just to keep winning games as we were over the past two seasons. It is the most competitive it has been for a few seasons. You have got to practice and play hard and for us, the next few weeks will be challenging as we have got three away games on the bounce as playing at someone else’s ground is always much more difficult as they will have wickets that favour them.
“If we come out with three wins out of the three it will be testament to us hitting our straps and make it more condensed and interesting at the top.”
INTRIGUING is the word to describe the fixtures towards the top end of the Bradford Premier League over the next few Saturdays.
Four of the division’s top five lock horns this weekend with second-placed Farsley welcoming fifth-placed Woodlands alongside Pudsey St Lawrence’s trip to Townville.
A week tomorrow promises to be another compelling occasion with current leaders Hanging Heaton welcoming St Lawrence and Farsley entertaining Townville – and the table will certainly make for interesting viewing at the end of June.
While Woodlands were thwarted by the elements last weekend, the rain proved no pain for Farsley, with James Wainman and the ever-reliable James Price helping them to beat New Farnley under Duckworth Lewis Stern.
It has been another strong start to the season for the Red Laners, with back-to-back games with Woodlands and Townville offering a further opportunity to cement their title credentials.
Meanwhile, leaders Heaton – who have won seven of their opening nine matches – will be seeking to hit back after their first defeat of the season in the Heavy Woollen Cup on Sunday when they take to the field at lowly East Bierley.
Elsewhere, a mid-table affair sees Cleckheaton welcome Bradford & Bingley, while rock-bottom Batley – without a win in nine top-flight matches – play host to an inconsistent New Farnley side who are far too close to the relegation positions for comfort and will be seeking an improvement in the coming weeks and months.
In Championship One, frontrunners Scholes, 28 points clear, go to Ossett, with second-placed Wrenthorpe visiting Gomersal.
Third meets fourth with Methley hosting Undercliffe. Morley, in fifth, are at home to Bankfoot.
Boasting a perfect record of eight wins from eight and 41 points clear at the summit of Championship Two, runaway leaders Hartshead Moor will be aiming to make it nine victories from nine when they host Carlton at Highmoor Lane.
Townville have been handed a home draw with 2015 Heavy Woollen Cup winners Woodlands in the semi-finals of the competition.
The other tie sees Kirkburton host Whitley Hall or Hoylandswaine.