THE top four sides in the Ribblesdale League are thrown together this weekend as the race for the title hots up.
Second-placed Great Harwood welcome fourth-placed Clitheroe to Cliffe Park tomorrow while league leaders Read have a tough trip to Ribblesdale Wanderers, who share 70 points with Harwood.
Wanderers got one over on Harwood last week in a tight finish after a rain-affected game. Harwood amassed 195-9, thanks to 86 from former skipper Paul Houldsworth.
Wanderers reached 194-9 after 42 overs when rain stopped play and they picked up the points.
"It was so frustrating, we just needed that one wicket," admitted Harwood skipper Gordon Simpson. We were struggling for a while but we did well to get back into it and our attitude pleased me.
"But I was disappointed that we had three overs but could not get the last wicket - and the fact we were one ball off getting seven points but ended up with nothing. Still it was an entertaining game - a great game of cricket."
Simpson knows this weekend's double header will be important as they are up against Clitheroe tomorrow and make the trip to Earby on Sunday.
"We go into every game confident as we are still playing a lot of good cricket," said the captain.
"We had a good game against Clitheroe at their place earlier this season, but we threw wickets away going from 130-odd for three to 161 all out. That was a poor performance but we have raised our game since then.
"Their captain Neil Bolton has been in great form and we know we need to get him and the professional out. What is good for me is that I know we have strength in depth. We are not dependent on one or two but everyone has played their part and contributed. Anyone can come in and get runs. Liam Deasey has developed from someone putting in an occasional performance to being consistent, he has had two 50s this year which has pleased me.
"And Stuart Mahers has continued to take wickets. But while these have done well, it isn't fair to focus on individuals - everyone has performed well and the fact everyone has contributed has been the key to the season so far."
Read are nine points clear at the top with 12 points separating the top four sides.
"There is a long way to go yet," said the Harwood skipper. We have nine games left and there are 63 points up for grabs. At the moment I am just worrying about us.
"I might look at other teams' fixtures near the end but now it is up to us to keep picking up the bonus points."
The title is the main aim for Harwood but they do have the tiny matter of the Ramsbottom Cup final against Read at Padiham on Sunday 17 August.
"It is nice to be in a final and we want to win it. A few of this team have played in finals before and we love it. But it is just a release - the one we want is the league title."
Elsewhere, Baxenden professional Jon Harvey took three wickets for five runs in a nine-over spell against local rivals Oswaldtwistle Immanuel.
Six of Immanuel's side failed to score as they fell for 75 with Chris Burton top-scoring with 22. Harvey made 27 as Baxenden triumphed with six wickets to spare.
They will be hoping to close the gap on sixth-placed Cherry Tree when they welcome Barnoldswick to Back Lane tomorrow and then face a tough game at home to Clitheroe on Sunday.
Oswaldtwistle, meanwhile, face two away games - at Earby tomorrow and then Settle on Sunday.