SPEN VICTORIA have emerged as genuine contenders for promotion in Bradford League Division Two, with old-hand Rob Burton performing superbly with the ball and batsman Tosh Baker being one of only five players to top the 400-mark.
Burton, who began his career as a teenager with Spen – playing alongside father John – can also name East Bierley and Gomersal among his former clubs.
His former sharpness appears to have returned this season under new skipper Dan Shuffe and his current claim as the league’s leading wicket-taker, with 32, covers both tiers.
Shuffe takes his side on the short trip over Hartshead to struggling Brighouse this weekend.
They travel fresh from an emphatic nine-wicket victory over Bowling Old Lane, where Peter Jackson hit a top-scoring 70, and are looking to close the six-point gap on leaders Farsley.
Spen could have done with a favour from Gomersal – themselves in the promotion hunt.
But the Oxford Road side, packed with left-handers in the middle order, came unstuck against Farsley’s predominantly off-spin attack of Mark Harrison, Ian Philliskirk and Ashley Metcalfe – and fell 37 runs short.
It was a big day for Farsley’s former Yorkshire batsman Metcalfe as his modest 13 included the runs which saw him become only the second player to pass 16,000 in the Bradford League.
Gomersal badly missed leading wicket-taker Chris Rhodes, but are hopeful of having him back for their game at home to Undercliffe.
The visitors will boast a pair of familiar faces, being captained by ex-Gomersal man Ben Heritage – the son of their cricket director, Russell Heritage, who is himself a former Gomersal skipper.
Hartshead Moor go to Windhill, while in the top flight Hanging Heaton hope to continue the fine form of last weekend when they face Priestley Cup quarter-finals victims Pudsey Congs in a league clash at Bennett Lane.
Already through to the last four of Heavy Woollen Cup, Hanging Heaton comfortably overcame Congs to clinch a second semi-final spot.
And their progression was largely due to the efforts of player-chairman John Carruthers, who took four wickets for 16 runs – inside only 10 overs – to send the visitors on their way to a dismal 87 all out.
West Indian all-rounder Montcin Hodge hit an unbeaten 43 during their cruise to victory but Carruthers, talking this week to The Press, admitted there are problems in the offing.
“Montcin returns to the Caribbean this week to take part in a tournament and he will definitely be missed in the key games we have lined up,” said Carruthers.
“But like the rest of our new signings I think he has done well and am pleased overall with those we have brought to the club and more so with the performance of Mark Lawson – in his first season as captain.”
Former Yorkshire and Kent leg-spinner Lawson is in the top-10 wicket-takers in Division One and also hit key runs, with a leading 69 in the 57-run win at East Bierley.
However, Carruthers has written off hopes of a title challenge in the second half of the season.
“To my mind there are only two teams in it and that is Woodlands and Cleckheaton,” he added.
The aforementioned currently hold the top-two league positions and are coincidentally due to meet at Moorend tomorrow, where victory for Cleckheaton is paramount if John Wood’s men are to close a 24-point gap (Sat).