Aire-Wharfe: Title favourites, Otley, keen to avoid a final-day showdown

Otley players celebrate a wicket by Dermot Reeve, right, who took four wickets in the win over visitors Pool to keep them clear at the top of Division 1. PIC: Steve Riding
Otley players celebrate a wicket by Dermot Reeve, right, who took four wickets in the win over visitors Pool to keep them clear at the top of Division 1. PIC: Steve Riding
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OTLEY chairman Chris Smith says the Aire Wharfe title race is far from over with the Cross Green chief keen to avoid a final-day showdown with Follifoot.

Another full 20-point haul via Saturday’s seven-wicket success at home to second-bottom Pool has left defending champions Otley needing just eight points from this weekend’s trip to seventh-placed Collingham to claim another league crown.

Otley bowler, James Davies. PIC: Steve Riding

Otley bowler, James Davies. PIC: Steve Riding

Second-placed Follifoot maintained their pursuit of the title by taking 18 points with Saturday’s five-wicket win at sixth-placed Horsforth but Follifoot are now 33 points behind Otley with only two games left.

As the table stands, first will play second on the final day of the season when Follifoot visit Otley but the game will be inconsequential to the title if Follifoot fail to beat fourth-placed visitors Ilkley this weekend.

Even then, Otley will wrap up the championship by taking the points they need at Collingham – an objective chairman Smith is keen to achieve to avoid a tense final day.

“What we are saying is we need eight more points,” said Smith, assessing how he saw the title race with two games remaining. “We’ve got Collingham to play, who are fighting for survival and then, obviously, we play Follifoot on the last day of the season.In a perfect world, if we could get a win out of the way on Saturday that would be good but we are assuming nothing and we, hopefully, just continue on with how we are doing.

Charlie Bell hits a boundary in his innings of 56 for Pool at Otley. PIC: Steve Riding

Charlie Bell hits a boundary in his innings of 56 for Pool at Otley. PIC: Steve Riding

“The purists would want it to go to the final day; I would be delighted if it didn’t.

“Follifoot have gone extremely well this summer, they have kept going and they are playing very well at the moment so I’d be keen for it not to go to the last day.

“We are playing well but, if you get to the last game, anything can happen so I would prefer it if we can accumulate enough points on Saturday for the last game of the season to be a bit a damp squib – not from the league’s concern but from a selfish point of view.

“If it does go to the last game then we are at home and we normally do okay at home.”

Follifoot finished only fourth-bottom last year but Nick Robinson’s side have emerged as this year’s Burley-in-Wharfedale who pushed Otley all the way to the line last year.

Burley have recovered gradually from a slow start and sit fifth after Saturday’s 63-run win at home to fifth-bottom North Leeds.

“Last year’s title went to the last day and this year’s has been similar,” said Smith, whose side are skippered by James Davies.

“I don’t think Follifoot would have been predicted to be in the top two but they have done remarkably well. They are a good side.

“They have pushed us all the way really and it’s not been easy. You would probably say we would have been favourites to win it but we have never got away from Follifoot really.

“And, in fact, they have had more bad luck than us on the weather front so it could have been even closer in points terms. I think James and the chaps will be trying like hell to get that win on Saturday.”

Elsewhere, bottom club Adel continued their brave fight to avoid the drop with an eight-wicket win at home to seventh-placed Bilton.

Third-bottom Rawdon lost by 26-runs at home to Addingham who moved third with Ilkley dropping to fourth after their eight-wicket reverse at home to Collingham.