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Accy’s late chase for a title repeat

In 2009, Haslingden were running away with the Lancashire League title but a late wobble saw the Thorneyholme Road side pip them on the final day of the season to clinch the title.

DERBY DATE: Accrington paid man Ashar Zaidi on his way to 90

Graham Lloyd’s Accrington side have been here before. In 2009, Haslingden were running away with the Lancashire League title – needing 17 points from their last four games – but a late wobble saw the Thorneyholme Road side pip them on the final day of the season to clinch the title.

They will be hoping Lowerhouse’s wobble has begun with defeat to Burnley on Sunday and that, entering the final two games of the season this weekend, it’s Accrington who are again holding the trophy aloft come Sunday evening.

Accrington captain Lloyd admits it’s still a long shot but, with them last losing on July 29, they are the in-form team going into the final games against Rishton and Burnley.

"We have won four on the bounce with others inbetween called off but I do think we are too far behind Lowerhouse and they are still the favourites," said Lloyd, whose side are 10 points behind the leaders with 12 available for a win.

"What we want to do is take it into the last game of the season, so mathematically we can still win it, as you just never know.

"I don’t think it’s the same situation as Haslingden three years ago as they had it home and dried and Lowerhouse are not quite in that position, but it’s in their hands.

"They are a very good team and to be honest, if we finish second like we did last season, then it will be better than we expected.

"Being up challenging in the final weekend is a bonus for us as we were out of it a few months ago. But with 12 points for a win it can all change quickly and luckily it has in our favour."

He continued: "David Ormerod has been so reliable again this season, Jimmy Hayhurst has been bowling well recently but we have won matches all over, not just with the pro.

"Ashar (Zaidi) is an excellent match-day professional and his bowling has been outstanding this season.

"He perhaps hasn’t got as many runs as last season but then others have chipped in as I think we have three amateurs with over 350 runs and separately they have won games for us and it’s been shared all over."

Accrington have thrown themselves back into the title race courtesy of a double-win weekend while those at the top have slipped up, including defending champions Lowerhouse who ran away with the title last season with Accrington runners-up.

Accrington overcame East Lancs at Alexandra Meadows on Saturday with ease.

East Lancs were comfortably bowled out for 83 with only pro Ockert Erasmus (17) and John Turner (16) making an impression as Accrington pro Zaidi claimed 5-25, while there was a double each for Hayhurst and Ormerod.

Accrington were 3-45 but 34 from Aijaz Shah saw them over the line with 20 from Zaidi also vital in a six-wicket win.

Then Accrington leapfrogged local rivals Enfield into second spot in a big game at Dill Hall Lane.

Zaidi was again a star with 90 in their 199-7 with Enfield sub pro Shaun de Kock – after regular pro Werner Coetsee returned to South Africa last week – taking four wickets and Hassan Fazal three.

No one could really build up a big score for Enfield and, at 5-55, they were in trouble. Joe Wrigley’s 30 boosted the score but Zaidi’s 5-40 and Ormerod’s 4-43 ignited their title campaign with an 83-run win with Enfield dropping to third.

"Enfield’s pro has been outstanding for them and they missed him," said Lloyd of Coetsee. "It was a very big toss for us to win and to get 200 on a pitch that was worsening meant it was always going to be tough for them."

Lloyd took over as captain as Hayhurst stepped down last month to concentrate on his work but Lloyd says there is no regrets anywhere.

"To be honest, this team captain themselves. There is no mystery in throwing the ball to Dibber (Ormerod) or the pro to bowl so it’s all worked out okay," said Lloyd, who is also an umpire in county cricket.

"Jimmy doesn’t have any regrets about giving up the captaincy and he won’t mind not lifting the trophy as long as we win it, as he is Accy through and through.

"But it is still a long shot, 10 points is a lot with two games to go.

"And we have to hope the weather is okay. It’s been an awful summer with lots of frustration from a lot of the teams and most of us are pretty sick of it now.

"So it will be a good finish for both games to go ahead and see what happens."

One thing Lloyd will confirm is that dad David, the Sky cricket commentator, will not return to play for the final weekend.

When Accrington beat Haslingden to the title, David Lloyd was at the wicket but Graham insisted: "I think he is working and he is 65 now so I am sure he has retired!"

Long-time title challengers Enfield aren’t out of the race yet but they need both Lowerhouse and Accrington to slip up this weekend as they have a 14-point deficit to make up on the league leaders.

They don’t have it easy this weekend with fourth placed Church first – who are mathematically still in the title race but more realistically may have to settle for mounting a charge for second place – followed by a final-day showdown with Bacup, who will have Edenfield professional Paul Gallagher as the Lanehead paid man.

Church are in form, overcoming Rishton in their derby clash on Sunday by eight wickets.

Rishton batted first in their 44-over clash with Luke McVarish top-scoring in their 147-7 with Church pro Saeed Anwar taking 4-55 and Lloyd Aspin 3-68.

Unfortunately for Rishton they came up against a strong opening partnership with Anwar (51) and Sam Holt (86 not out) putting on 131 for the first wicket, so they were never under threat.

But Jimmy Bibby’s side had an easier day on Saturday at Nelson as they played their game in hand. Ali Sartaj was the star with six wickets as Nelson chalked up just 72 all out.

Bibby (30 not out) and pro Dan Salpietro (34) got them home with nine wickets to spare with Rishton still looking towards a top half of the table finish this season.

After Accrington it’s bottom club Rawtenstall for them on Sunday in the final game of the campaign – after which Rishton skipper Bibby will finally hang up his bat and bowl at Blackburn Road, providing he can recover from a disclocated finger.

 
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