GREAT Harwood skipper Russell Whalley admits it will be "very hard" for his team to now win the title after they slipped 10 points behind league leaders Clitheroe.
Whalley had seen his side set the pace at the top of the table with two defeats in their opening 12 league games.
But they have lost four of their last seven and their latest defeat to title rivals Clitheroe on Saturday has left them playing catch-up with just seven games left.
"It will be very hard now. We are gutted but, at the end of the day, we are just not good enough," said the skipper. "Too many of the key batsmen are underperforming and players are out to stupid shots. It is disappointing.
"We have been top of the league for most of the season and could have gone 17 points clear at one stage as we should have been in strong position against Settle. But only Liam Deasey and I got in double figures and we threw it away as we have done too often recently.
"We have got to be realistic and we now need three teams above us, Clitheroe, Settle and Barnoldswick to slip up although Settle do face Barnoldswick this weekend and we play Barnoldswick the week after so we can still have big say."
Whalley can take some plus points in that his own performances with the bat have been solid and he got another 70 and was supported by the pro Martin Nurse who made 56 against Clitheroe.
But, in chasing 260-4, the lower order collapsed with just two runs from the last four batsmen and they fell 26 runs short as Clitheroe picked up all seven points.
"I think we needed four an over at one point and needed 25 to win from around five overs," continued the captain. "That should have been possible for us. But we threw it away - again."
Whalley admits while some of the batsmen have underperformed, the loss of two vital bowlers has been hard this season
Gordon Simpson moved away after playing the first few games of the campaign while Stuart Maher missed the start of the season through injury.
"You are talking 80 wickets between them and you can't make that up," continued the captain. "Saying that, Paul Houldsworth has been one of the finds of the season with the ball as he has taken 20 wickets but we missed Stuart and Gordon at vital times."
While Whalley hasn't given up on the league yet, he still feels he personally has plenty to play for as he looks to top 1000 runs. He has 759 on the board so far.
"I won't change my style of play and now my own target is to get over 1000 runs. But we won't give up on the league yet," added the captain.
And, just to add to their league woes, Harwood were gutted in their Thwaites 20/20 quest.
The Cliffe Park club faced Read last Thursday night making an impressive 221-6 in their 20 overs with Whalley making a record breaking 141.
And it looked good with Read struggling on 7-2 with sub pro Kumar Dharmasena and their leading amateur batsman out. But the heavens opened and the rule book was checked.
The Ribblesdale League cup rules said the game should carry on the next night and everyone was in agreement.
But, after a copy of the rules for that tournament was dug out, it said if 10 overs hadn't been played, then the game has to be restarted with Harwood's and the captain's total scrapped. It now seems the match will start all over again on Sunday 21 August at 4pm although the date does have to be confirmed.
Great Harwood will be hoping to take all their frustrations out at home to Whalley on Saturday.
And it didn't get much better for Baxenden or Oswaldtwistle Immanuel.
Ossie had hoped to give themselves a huge boost - and doing their old pro Russell Whalley a favour - by denting Settle's title ambitions.
Skipper Gerard Metcalf was happy to see his wicket tally for the season rise to 36 after taking 5-26 in nine overs but Settle still set 194.
However, disappointment with the bat followed as Mark Roberts top scored with just 18 in their 76 all out.
And Baxenden will be disappointed they didn't put on a better show against fifth placed Padiham.
Pete Usher took four wickets to make it 40 for the season and 154-9 would have felt a reasonable score for Bash who have had some big scores recently.
But three ducks, the pro Indika Gallage out for seven and a top score of just 24 for Callum Waddington and Mark Rishton meant they fell well short. They face leaders Clitheroe on Saturday.