GREAT HARWOOD have secured top spot in the Veka Ribblesdale League - and now they have to try and stay there.
"That's the aim," said skipper Russell Whalley who couldn't hide his delight at his side's narrow one wicket win over Padiham on Saturday.
"This time last year we would have lost that game, without a doubt," continued the captain.
"We needed 30 to win with three wickets left and I will be honest - I didn't expect us to win.
"But Jimmy Kenyon, Steve Atkinson and Lee Dobson have hung in there and Jimmy has won the game for us with 16.
"He can be nervous but he had a job to do and he has done it. I was so pleased for the tail-enders as to win the championship everyone needs to chip in.
"It is important the middle and lower order get the runs, it lifts their confidence and if we have that little bit of luck maybe it will be our year."
Whalley has made no secret of the fact of what it would mean to him and his side if they lifted their first league crown since 1900. There is still a long way to go but he is happy to be sitting top at the moment.
"It is the first time we have gone top in a long time," said the captain.
But more games like Saturday won't do the captain any good as it went to the wire.
Padiham pro Kashif Siddique had taken charge scoring 100 of their 144 but Harwood's Lee Dobson kept it tight taking 4-28.
"I have played with Lee a long time, at Rishton before this, and that is the best I have seen him bowl for a while," said Whalley. "It was at pace and he was absolute quality. He is laid back at times but he is as good as anybody with the ball and decent with the bat so we hope he will carry it on."
Harwood had a steady start to their innings through Liam Deasey (23) and pro Martin Nurse (51). The Barbados player hit eight fours in his 57 balls to put Harwood on the right track.
"He was disappointed as, like anybody, when he gets to 50 he wants to get to three figures but he has done well. But he still doesn't like buying drinks at the bar!" joked the captain.
The middle and lower order did then stutter before Kenyon made inroads and Chris Ramsker's 11 helped to send Harwood to the top of the table with just one wicket to spare.
They have to keep up the performance when they take on third placed Edenfield on Saturday.
"It is a big game but they all are. Everyone can beat each other in this league but if we play to our capabilities we won't be far off," added the captain. "We have a good set of lads here and maybe this can be our year."
Oswaldtwistle pro Raja Ali certainly announced his arrival back on the Ribblesdale League scene with a 77 on his debut this season - and he knocked opponents Blackburn Northern off the top in the process.
The Indian has missed the opening of the season but showed he had lost none of his big-hitting with nine fours and a six in Immanuel's 173.
Then skipper Gerard Metcalf disposed of the Blackburn batsmen with 6-33 in their 41 run win - their first victory of the season.
Immanuel face Earby tomorrow looking to build on this.
And Baxenden had Mark Rishton to thank for their win over Ribblesdale Wanderers which moved them up to fifth place in the league.
The opener made an unbeaten 102 and formed a strong third wicket partnership with Sri Lankan pro Indika Gallage who made 59 in their 221-4
Pete Usher then got to work with the ball, taking 4-20 while Gallage grabbed 3-71 as Wanderers fell 51 runs short.
Baxenden travel to title holders Read tomorrow, who haven't had the best of starts to the season.
- RUSSELL Whalley lost his Rishton CC amateur record when Peter Sleep's unbeaten 151 on Sunday eclipsed his 142 against Enfield in 1995.
"If you are going to lose a record you can't complain when you lose it to a former Test player," added Whalley.