SHEPLEY embark on their biggest game for 22 years tomorrow when they entertain Golcar in the first Romida Sykes Cup semi-final.
For the Marsh Lane club, now skippered by Danny Glover, have not been in the final of the Huddersfield League’s premier knockout competition since 1989, when they went down to Elland by 49 runs.
Indeed, Shepley are one of the few clubs never to have won the Sykes Cup, have only ever been in two finals, the first when losing to Broad Oak in 1978.
And although Glover’s side are three places below Golcar in the Drakes Premiership and his opposite number Steve Whitwam has the benefit of an eight-run win over Shepley on the opening day of the season, home advantage may just tip the scales.
Shepley have had a bit of an up-and-down first half of the season, but have gave an indication of their excellent Cup qualities by knocking over Broad Oak, Scholes and Hoylandswaine so far in their run to the semis, and of course, have also reached the semi-finals of the Heavy Woollen Cup, where they have a great chance of reaching that final, having drawn Drakes League strugglers Slaithwaite at home.
On paper both sides look strong, although Shepley look stronger in the bowling attack, where Danny Glover and elder brother Craig (who lifted the trophy last year with Skelmanthorpe) form a very strong pace spearhead, backed up by spinner Amar Rashid and SP Singh.
Tom Denton, although missing the win over Swaine, has so far hit 133 and 42 in the previous two ties, while Tim Rees hit a ton in the quarter-final tie and Liam Wiles has been one of the side’s most consistent run-scorers all season, while Singh is closing in on 600 runs in the League and Cup, so the batting power is there.
Having lost Jack Hendy to Elland and with Danny Rhodes coming the other way but being Cup-tied, Golcar are now almost solely reliant on Will Hinchliffe to lead the pace attack, backed up by a trio of spin options with Whitwam, Australian Jack McNamara and Craig Horner.
Obviously it wasn’t the draw that either side wanted (Skelmanthorpe got that cherry, with the clash against League newcomers Cawthorne) but Golcar overcame the massive challenge of League-leaders Delph & Dobcross in the quarter-finals and having won the Sykes Cup two years ago when they defeated Elland with the bulk of the same side, Whitwam will not be frightened of anyone.
New signing Lee Baxter missed the Delph clash, and his experience and quality of batting could play a huge role tomorrow, while at the other end of the age spectrum, the visitors would have liked Yorkshire Academy player Eddie Wilson, who has been gaining valuable experience with the County’s Second string to be available, but unfortunately he is otherwise committed to the county.
Wicketkeeper/batsman Eddie Wilson (as opposed to out-and-out keeper Mark Wilson who will now take the gloves) made a crucial 74 along with 74 from James Sykes against Delph, supported by Horner and Craig Ruscoe, so on balance there is very little to choose between the sides.
The two 12-man squads are:
Shepley: Danny Glover (capt), Tom Sykes (wkt), SP Singh, Tom Denton, Tim Rees, Liam Wiles, Amar Rashid, Huw Ellis, Nigel Hoyle, Sam Haigh, Craig Glover, Ali Raza.
Golcar: Steve Whitwam (capt), Lee Baxter, Mick Illingworth, Jack McNamara, James Sykes, Craig Horner, Craig Ruscoe, Chris Fawcett, Will Hinchliffe, Mick Smith, Eddie Wilson, Mark Wilson.