GREAT Harwood captain Russell Whalley says injuries and absences are playing havoc with their title defence.
Harwood are tipped to be up there challenging for the top spot but have won two out of their four opening league games and currently lie in mid-table.
And they made an early exit from the Ramsbottom Cup on Saturday when Cherry Tree secured a narrow two wicket win.
"We are struggling with injuries at the moment," said the captain, who is himself battling a chest infection.
"Phil Allen has missed the last two games through injury while Stuart Maher is playing through a hamstring strain. He is bowling but is unable to do it properly,
"Ian Haworth also has a hamstring injury while Matt Howarth will miss Sunday’s Lancashire Cup game.
"And Allan Armer has family commitments and will probably miss about five games which is a big loss for us.
"You can’t afford to lose players like Allan for such a length of time.
"It is chaotic and so far we haven’t been good enough bowling either.
"However, we will persevere. It is frustrating not having a full strength side but the lads who have stepped up are doing their best and we have just got to carry on."
The Ramsbottom Cup has been a favourite of Harwood over the years but Whalley admitted they only had themselves to blame for not making it into round two.
"The pro got himself out at a bad time then there were a couple of dropped catches.
"We dropped Lee Kennedy and Danny Lord and they cost us.
"But there are only four league games gone and I still think we will be there or thereabouts once the injuries and absences have started to clear up."
Pro Raouf Akbar is getting used to the conditions and Whalley has high hopes for him.
"He is adapting to the conditions but he is a good lad and his attitude is right.
"He hasn’t had a big score yet but I am sure it will come."
Meanwhile Baxenden continued their stunning start to the season by making it to the next round of the cup.
Professional Baber Naeem made 61 while Mark Rishton chalked up 56 in their 212.
Dominic Bulcock and Gary Sudworth took three wickets each to set up a second round clash with Harwood conquerors Cherry Tree.
OSWALDTWISTLE IMMANUEL made it through to round two where they face big-hitting Padiham.
Immanuel saw off Whalley with openers Daniel Metcalf (51) and Alamgir Anwar (41) giving Ossy a strong start.
Mitch Taylor’s 29 also helped them set a target of 175.
Early wickets boosted Ossy with Gerard Metcalf claiming three wickets while Andrew Metcalf got rid of the lower order and finished with figures of 5-18.