Photo: Gerald Christian
THIU BARNARD can’t believe his Cleckheaton side’s impressive start to the season, which has put them in third place in the North One East table ahead of this weekend’s derby clash with Morley.
The Moorenders have won five and drawn one of their first eight games including victories over both of the teams above them in the table, Scarborough and Driffield.
Having avoided relegation from the division on the final day last season, it has been some turnaround over the summer.
Head coach Barnard said: “If someone told me in April that we’d be third, I’d obviously have taken that!
“If we get a win this weekend we go second as the top two play each other. I can’t believe it, we’ve come on massively and that’s a credit to the players.
“Bringing Lee (Queeley) in on the fitness side of things has been a massive change. We’ve simplified the game plan a bit more, and the players have just bought into what we’re trying to do so that’s helped massively.”
Barnard also says that while Cleck have proved they are a match for anyone on their day, it is finding consistency – as well as luck – that will be crucial in maintaining their good start.
“The nice thing is that this season we’ve beaten the bottom teams as well. Last year we were beating the top teams and losing to the bottom teams,” he reflected.
“If we turn up, there isn’t a team in the league that can beat us. It’s just finding that level every week, that’s the challenge now.
“You need a bit of luck, we’ve not had many injuries this season and the bounce of the ball has been good for us.”
The next challenge for Cleckheaton is a local derby with Morley, who themselves finished third last year, are four points behind their neighbours with a game in hand and have aspirations at the top end of the table.
Cleck did the double over the Maroons despite their struggles last term, and Barnard says his team will be taking the game at Moorend on Saturday (kick-off 3pm) as just another fixture.
“For me it’s another game and I think the players have bought into that,” he said. “They just want to play and move onto the next week.
“We’ll prepare as though it’s another game and only worry about ourselves. We’ve got little things we need to improve and if we do that we’ll be alright.”