WOODLANDS and Cleckheaton may have enjoyed their place in the sun at the top of the Bradford League over the years, but two other teams are sharing the hegemony in 2016.
Those sides being the current top two of Pudsey St Lawrence and Hanging Heaton and one of the league’s most shrewd cricketting observers believes that this year’s quest for the honours in the newly-named ECB Bradford Premier League is now firmly a two-horse race.
That figure being respected Woodlands secretary Brian Pearson, who has ceded his own side’s hopes of league silverware, just as Cleckheaton officials did a few weeks ago.
Statistics bear out Pearson’s view with St Lawrence having largely proved the epitome of consistency, with nine wins and just one loss from ten league matches thus far.
They are 26 clear at the summit ahead of Hanging Heaton and only a brave man would bet against St Lawrence captain James Smith lifting silverware again this autumn and the championship not remaining at Tofts Road.
Pearson believes that the only side who could stop them are Gary Fellows’s Tewits, who host St Lawrence in a huge looking fixture on July 30, which you sense that they must win if they are to have a fair chance of winning the title for the first time since 1999. Pearson, whose Woodlands side lie in a disappointing fifth spot, although they are still in the Priestley Cup, said: “We have not been playing with my watchword of consistency.
“To be brutally honest, we have too much to do to catch Pudsey (St Lawrence) in the league. They are going very well and they are a very effective unit as are Hanging Heaton.
“They have not yet found that consistency and that is why they are lying second.
“But my view is that it is between those two and we are playing to hit some form.
“I forecast this season that it would be a good competition and a lot of teams are beating everybody, but Pudsey are the team who are putting the whole package together at the moment.
“They have got a balanced and all-round bowling unit with spinners and the strike bowlers are also doing the business.
“Richie Lamb, for example got five wickets recently and their batting is very strong as is Hanging Heaton’s – although maybe they are short of a bowler.
“But it’s a good competition with another half to go. I can’t see Pudsey and Hanging Heaton not keeping on winning.”
Action tomorrow sees leaders St Lawrence make the trip to third-from-bottom Bradford and Bingley, while Heaton play host to fourth-placed New Farnley, who have rallied after a slow start to the campaign.
Pudsey Congs make the trip to Morley, whose form has plummeted with the Scatcherd Lane outfit keen to arrest a run which has seen them drop towards the foot of the table.
Farsley, who are enjoying an uplifting campaign, visit rock-bottom Scholes, while Woodlands play host to Lightcliffe.
Cleckheaton are at home to near-neighbours East Bierley.
PUDSEY ST Lawrence and Hanging Heaton will be aiming to keep their hopes of a league and Priestley Cup double alive in Sunday’s quarter-finals.
Six-time winners St Lawrence, who beat Wrenthorpe in a rescheduled second-round tie last weekend, make the short trip to Championship A outfit Undercliffe, well placed for promotion back to the top flight this time.
It has been a long time between drinks since Hanging Heaton’s last Priestley Cup success, 30 years to be precise with the Bennett Laners winning back-to-back cup silverware in 1985 and 1986 in what proved a golden era in the mid-eighties period.
They make the journey to holders Bradford and Bingley in the tie of the round at Wagon Lane.
The nearest that the Tewits came to lifting the trophy arrived three years ago when they lost in the final.
Meanwhile, the cup is the only major silverware route open to Woodlands, who have won the competition just once – back in 2006.
Tim Jackson’s side play host to Championship A strugglers Baildon and should prove too strong for the Jenny Lane visitors.
The other tie sees top-flight newboys Scholes entertain near-neighbours and 2013 victors Lightcliffe, seeking to go one better after losing out in last year’s final to winners Bradford and Bingley. This year’s final is on August 28.