THE Championship and Conference clubs get to take centre stage next Sunday (along with the White Rose side), when the Oddfellows and Earnshaw Cup reach the semi-finals.

The League standings suggest that both home sides, Clayton West and Holmfirth, who play in the Frank Platt Championship should start as favourites against their Cedar Court Conference visitors in the Oddfellows.

But then there is probably very little to choose between the two levels, and Linthwaite, who now visit Clayton West, and Thongsbridge who make the very short trip up the road to play Holmfirth will by no means consider themselves underdogs.

Linthwaite have also just nicely discovered where they are heading for the last-four clash, following the protracted dispute between Clayton West and Rastrick, which came to a conclusion last week, following the League Executive’s decision to put Clayton through.

The original game had ended in a controversial tie when, with the scores level, Rastrick’s last man was run out off the last delivery of the game after being caught backing up.

The umpires’ initial decision was to give the Rastrick batsman out, but then after the two sides had left the field and following a considerable delay they decided an error of judgement had been made and took the sides back out to replay the final ball which was then hit to the boundary giving Rastrick the win.

Not surprisingly, Clayton West immediately lodged an appeal with the Drakes Executive, who upheld the umpires’ original decision had been correct, and therefore under the laws of cricket the game officially ended in a tie.

They subsequently ruled that a replay should take place at Rastrick’s Round Hill ground, which should have taken place last Sunday.

However, Rastrick then launched a counter appeal, but outside the time span allowed for submitting appeals, and were told they had to replay the game on the confirmed date.

Rastrick apparently then refused to play the game, so the Executive were left with little option but to award the tie to Clayton West.

It’s hardly a satisfactory state of affairs when the outcome of a match has to be settled in a ‘committee room’. Besides, it was always my impression that when two sides left the field of play, that was officially the end of the game, and the result stood.

The only circumstances in which teams can be ordered back onto the field, is in the case where there may be serious discrepancies between the two scorebooks.

Nevertheless, Clayton West will now be hoping to progress to the final as they pursue a League and Cup double.

They enjoyed a good run in the Sykes Cup with unexpected victories over Honley and Barkisland before being overrun by Skelmanthorpe in the quarters, and if they can hang on to first or second spot in the Championship will get promoted to the Premiership, which is probably where they feel they should be after being denied what they perceived to be their just desserts with a runners-up spot last season when Kexborough withdrew from the League.

Linthwaite meanwhile, have performed much better this season with five wins to their name, having had to apply for re-election to the League in the previous two seasons with Imran Malik one of the League’s leading run-scorers, and will not be overawed by their visit to Back Lane.

In the second tie Holmfirth will renew their age-old rivalry with close Holme Valley neighbours Thongsbridge with a couple of interesting items spicing up what is usually a tasty derby between two clubs separated by only a good ‘drive and a pitching wedge’.

Javed Iqbal junior has returned to Holmfirth this season after an unproductive spell at Miry Lane and has already taken 39 wickets, while Max Gummerson, has also gone ‘down the road’ to join brother Matt, who skippers the Bridge End club this season.

Like Clayton West, Holmfirth have recently had problems of their own, having been stripped of a total of 24 League points which has seen them slump from top of the Championship table to the bottom.

That was down their apparent failure to re-register Javed Iqbal senior, who as a non-EU player had his registration automatically cancelled at the end of last season.

And that cost Holmfirth 12 points from the two victories achieved over Paddock and Almondbury – the latter in which Iqbal blasted 159 – and a subsequent 12-point deduction imposed by the League Executive for playing an ineligible player.

Instead of challenging for promotion, they face the threat of relegation with Paddock.

Thongsbridge have not fallen foul of the League, but they too suffered a huge body blow to their Conference title hopes last week, when – with the exception of skipper Ben Raven-Hill who made a battling 71 – the rest of the side managed just 13 runs between them at Cawthorne!

And with Armitage Bridge taking their seventh maximum of the summer, that left Raven-Hill’s side a hefty 19 points adrift of the runaway leaders.

There are still nine matches remaining, including two head-to-heads between the Holme Valley rivals (the first of which is today) but a repeat of the Cawthorne ‘horror show’ will have Paul Hamer’s Armitage Bridge side jumping for joy with a first trophy for more years than anyone of today’s current squad were around to witness.

Linthwaite and Clayton West are also both involved in the Earnshaw Cup (for Second Elevens) with Clayton visiting Hall Bower in one semi, while Linthwaite host Hoylandswaine in the other.

All matches will start at 1pm.