CRICKET: PAUL Houldsworth admitted it has been a season of missed opportunities for Great Harwood.
The Cliffe Park side are currently in third spot in the Ribblesdale League but the title has come down to a two-horse race between Blackburn Northern - who took over top spot at the weekend - and Baxenden.
Harwood really thought this could be their year to win their first league title since 1900 but now they are focusing on next season's campaign to end this hoodoo.
"I take no pleasure in coming third," said captain Houldsworth, with four games left of the season.
"We might as well be sixth or seventh if you aren't going to finish top.
"If you don't win the league it counts as a poor season and that's what we wanted to do.
"Now we have begun discussing things for next season.
"There might not be many more chances for some of us to win the league.
"I am 38 next year and Russell Whalley is 39 and it isn't easy as everything is dropping to bits and everything aches.
"But we still really want to do it. Sometimes you think it might never happen but we will all still be here next season."
Houldsworth was always a reluctant captain and will relinquish it when this season is over.
Waiting in the wings are two former skippers Whalley and Allan Armer who will battle it out for the captain's spot.
And these two will be hoping for full seasons with Harwood after both missed a large part of this summer's campaign.
"Russell was injured for most of the season and Allan has missed a third of it with getting married and his job," continued Houldsworth.
"Russell gets married a week after the season finishes, his injury is clearing up and Allan is now married so we are hoping there are none of the problems next season.
"I only did the captaincy this season as there was really no one else but I am glad to let it go now."
But he is steering Harwood to a strong finish after they dampened local rivals Baxenden's title hopes with a victory on Saturday and beat Read on Sunday.
"The victory over Baxenden was sweet as they have had a few things to say over the last few weeks," said Houldsworth.
"We have beat them three times this season - including the 20/20 - but we also have Blackburn Northern to play so we could do Baxenden a favour.
"Blackburn Northern are probably the favourites now but I don't care who wins - all I know is we are miles behind and it is too little, too late."
Former Australian Test star Peter Sleep, who won't be at the club next season, made an unbeaten 50 in their 153-8 against Bash with Jonathan Fielding taking five wickets. But Paul Newton almost single-handedly disposed of Bash's batting line-up, finishing with figures of 7-30.
On Sunday, it was Armer's turn to shine with the bat agonisingly missing out on a century by six runs in their 229-5.
Professional Jermaine Lawson - who still hasn't decided if he will be back next season - took four wickets in their 74 run victory.
Saturday's defeat, though, could cost Baxenden dear although they did bounce back on Sunday against Earby.
Fielding took 7-34 to dispose of Earby and take his wicket tally for the season to 89 - 35 wickets ahead of anyone else.
It means they are just two points behind Northern with the two due to meet a week tomorrow.
OSWALDTWISTLE Immanuel had a strange weekend. They put on a strong show to see off Read on Saturday with paid man Ahmer Saeed taking five wickets and then scoring 52 with the bat.
But they then struggled against bottom club Barnoldswick despite four wickets for Andrew Metcalf.
They have a tough game against Padiham tomorrow, Baxenden are at Ribblesdale Wanderers while Harwood face Earby.
GREAT HARWOOD newly re-formed ladies have unclaimed raffle prizes from the Ladies Day. Tickets are 509, 505, 552, 580, 590, 577, 518 and 595. Call the club on 01254 884136.