CHURCH officials know it can be hit and miss in signing sub professionals.
The Blackburn Road side are reliant on stand-ins as they await the arrival of signed-up paid man Luke Woodcock.
The New Zealander did actually land at Heathrow Airport last month to play Lancashire League cricket but was sent back due to work permit problems with the new stricter visa rules making it harder to enter Great Britain, with a number of clubs suffering.
And so the Church management have had to join the scramble for sub professionals, calling on at least seven this season including former player Mark Aspin to fill the gap.
It has, indeed, got so bad in the battle for sub pros that the league have had to introduce a rule for a month that anyone who sub pros will not lose their amateur status, as would usually happen.
"It was Ken Fergusson’s turn this week to find professionals for the weekend and he was on the phone on Thursday and rung 15 counties for help and we got no assistance," said Church stalwart Jack Houldsworth.
"You wouldn’t believe the amount of e-mails which are flying around.
"We had thought Luke might be here for last weekend but whenever we ring up to find out more details we are just told the new visa application we have sent ‘is being processed’ so we are no closer to knowing if it will be this weekend or if he can come at all.
"We have three box files full of correspondence about Luke and his visa and it is so frustrating for us and him as he is just hanging around waiting to get on a flight again.
"So we have been using sub pros - and Mark Aspin got a phone call at 12 o’ clock on the day of one match as we just couldn’t find one.
"And much of the time, you don’t know what you are going to get."
So when they asked Central Lancashire League side Unsworth for their South African pro Wayne Madsen for Sunday it was again more in hope than expectation. But the Church committee made no secret of the fact that the 25-year-old is now welcome to stand in anytime after his nine wicket haul and 72-runs which led to a five wicket win over Haslingden.
It ended what was a bumper weekend for Church as, although the long-running professional saga had left a bitter taste in the officials mouths, there is renewed optimism around Blackburn Road.
First they chalked up a 20/20 Group victory over Accrington on Friday night followed by a Worsley Cup quarter-final last gasp win over Lowerhouse on Saturday and then a league win over Haslingden.
And Madsen was another with a smile on his face.
"I didn’t even know where Church was but they spoke to my chairman at Unsworth who is really good and so I was pleased to play," said Masden.
"I have played in the Lancashire League before as I sub-pro-ed for Ramsbottom last season - it was actually against Haslingden again and I took four wickets and got 60-odd runs so I guess Haslingden don’t really like me!
"It is always hard being a sub pro as you don’t know anyone or the place and don’t know how a team play but, for me, I am very competitive and want to win any sport I play.
"And it was no different on Sunday - whether I was playing for Unsworth or Church I wanted to win."
Madsen has got a good CV and currently leads the Central Lancashire League batting and bowling averages and has been playing for Derbyshire seconds as he looks to break into the county scene.
And his all-round skills are shining.
"I have got some decent scores for Derbyshire so you never know what will happen. My aim is to secure a county place.
"And so it is good for me to play as much cricket as possible and to get nine wickets for Church - I have never done that before.
"I have had a couple of eight wicket hauls - and one game got eight and a century - so it was nice to go one step further.
"To be honest, it went really quickly. Haslingden were 90-1 and I feared a big score but then we just rattled through them.
"Then I enjoy batting in that situation where you think it will be a close match and I had good support off Phil Sykes and Sagawat Hussain."
Hussain did take charge late on with a quick-fire 35 to clinch the maximum points after it had seemed the 171 set by Haslingden was too far away.
And it was the lower order batsmen who did the trick as Church reached the semi-finals of the Worsley Cup with a last over win at Lowerhouse on Saturday.
Phil Gilrane’s side seem to have a hooddoo over the Liverpool Road side this season, just beating them in two tight matches played so far.
And it was a staggering revival by Church after they seemed to be down and out. Lowerhouse made 214-9 and Church struggled on 29-3 and it was soon 117-7 with another sub pro Riaz Kail out for a duck.
But step forward last wicket pair Sam Tucker and bowler Andy Bentley.
Tucker has opened for Church in the past and he made an unbeaten 21 while Bentley made 33 as they scraped through with just three balls left.
The last gasp win was still being talked about on Sunday until Madsen’s heroics superseded them. Now all Church need is Woodcock to finally arrive as the season is definitely looking up.
THE semi-final draw for the Worsley Cup will be made tomorrow.