FIFTH in the table having won two of their first four games, newly-promoted Collingham & Linton are showing all the signs of adapting quickly to life back in the Aire Wharfe League top flight.
The Harewood Road side have even been mooted as potential title challengers by Otley chairman Chris Smith.
But 22-year-old first-season captain Jonny Haslem admits Otley have to be seen as title favourites with the Collingham skipper focused first and foremost on keeping his 2018 Division Two champions in the top division.
Under last season’s skipper, Jack Harrison, Collingham finished 30 points clear of runners-up Addingham in the 2018 second tier and former captain Sam Anderson has re-joined the side for life back in the top flight in 2019.
Club stalwarts Toby Jacklin and Steve James also remain and it was Jacklin’s knock of 38 that ultimately set Colingham up for victory at Bilton on Saturday as part of another rain-disrupted weekend.
Despite Bilton’s Awais Ejaz taking 6-28, Collingham’s total of 116 all out still bettered the Bilton reply of just 82 as Charlie Swallow flew in with a return of 5-17. With Horsforth the only other side to record a victory and every other game abandoned, Collingham now sit fifth and just seven points behind second-placed Follifoot.
Otley, though, are already 16 points clear of Follifoot and 23 ahead of Colingham with skipper Haslem in no doubt as to who are this season’s team to beat.
“I think Otley will always be favourites for the title most seasons and this year is no different,” said Haslem.
“The squad they have is always impressive and they set the standard in the Aire Wharfe League.
“Having said that, other teams will also provide challenges and there may be some surprise packages this year. North Leeds and Follifoot have both started the season well so can’t be written off!
“In terms of our own chances, we know it’s always going to be tough coming straight back up to Division One.
“We’re confident in our squad this year to go into every game thinking we can win but realistic in our expectations.
“We’re looking to finish as high as possible this season with the squad we have but, to be totally honest, anything other than relegation will constitute a good year for us, as a newly promoted side.”
In Saturday’s only other completed match in the top flight, Horsforth moved sixth by recording a 56-run win at third-bottom Addingham.
Sunday then saw the Waddilove Cup swing into gear with Otley six-wicket winners at Adel. Collingham, though, lost out by 19 runs at Pool. North Leeds raced to a 62-run success at home to Tong Park Esholt while Bilton edged a two-wicket verdict at Rawdon. Guiseley won by seven wickets at home to Horsforth but Horsforth Hall Park overcame visiting Addingham with four wickets to spare. Beckwithshaw also obliged by two wickets at Ilkley.