Sport

Title comes down to the wire

Church and Accrington stole a march on Sunday as they closed in on the top of the Foster’s Lancashire League.

STARRING ROLE Rishton pro Daniel Salpietro on his way to 75 (Picture: Rob Moss)

Church and Accrington stole a march on Sunday as they closed in on the top of the Foster’s Lancashire League.

With Enfield and Lowerhouse’s games both off due to the rain and third placed Todmorden involved in a dramatic draw at Burnley, the two Hyndburn sides crept up on the leaders.

"In the past few years there has been a clear out-and-out league winner at this stage of the season so to go into the last two weekends with still around five teams at least able to win the title makes it interesting," said Church skipper Craig Fergusson, with all of Monday’s programme wiped out.

"It will take a miracle for us to win it but all we can do is look after ourselves and finish as high as we can. Obviously getting the Bacup game on was huge for us and we do have a good relationship with them.

"We had heard a few games were off on Sunday but we worked for hours on the field and the umpires deemed it fit, Bacup had paid for a sub pro so it went ahead and luckily went our way."

By the time it started at Blackburn Road, it was a 20 over quick-fire game which certainly had the watching few on the edge of their seats.

Church pro Saeed Anwar was the man in charge, smashing 114 as his side made 192-3 in their alloted overs, Fergusson chipping in with 45.

Bacup, who has Blackpool pro Dale Deeb as their paid man, played their part in the game as they begun the chase.

Captain Tim Farragher grabbed 46 but the Lanehead side were all out for 148 with just two balls remaining.

Church all-rounder Lloyd Aspin finished up with 6-67 while Anwar grabbed the other four wickets.

"Lowerhouse have a game in hand tomorrow as do Accrington so most other teams will be watching how they go on," said Fergusson, whose side face local rivals Rishton on Sunday.

"Lowerhouse are favourites and are an excellent team as we have found out this season but it will be interesting to see what happens this weekend."

Accrington’s Sunday clash at Rawtenstall was also a 20 over shootout but didn’t quite have the runs. Vinny Hanson’s men have been struggling for high-scores this season and made 74-9 in their allotted overs with pro Jandre Coetzee falling for five.

Accrington had to be steady rather than big hitters and pro Ashar Zaidi’s 22 along with wicketkeeper Matt Wilson’s unbeaten 20 saw them home with almost six overs left – but there were a few nerves as seven wickets had fallen, four to Rawtenstall pro Coetzee.

The weather was nicer in Ramsbottom where Rishton were happy their game got the go-ahead even if was reduced to 46 overs.

Rishton paid man Dan Salpietro was again in the runs as he made made a big-hitting 75 ably supported by Abdul Biswoodall’s 50 after opener Jimmy Bibby had grabbed a steady 35.

Rishton set the Rams a target of 216-5 but with pro Pieter Malan in, there was always a chance. However the South African fell cheaply for 21 while Jon Fielding opened with their high score of 35 and the Rams finished on 150 all out. Rishton bowler Ali Sartaj did the damage with six wickets while Scott Greaves grabbed the other three.

"Rishton’s professional has been excellent this season," added Fergusson. "We won’t take any games lightly and anyone can beat anyone on the day which is why the title race could go to the last day."

Accrington could move into third place if they beat East Lancs tomorrow in their game in hand while Rishton could jump up to sixth with victory over Nelson. Then on Sunday it’s a big clash as joint leaders Enfield welcome Accrington to Dill Hall Lane in what could have a big say at the top.