MARSDEN and Kexborough promise a classic encounter tomorrow as they go head to head for a place in the Drakes League Premiership.
They contest the Conference Play-off Final at Scholes’ Chapelgate ground (noon) when two big bands of enthusiastic supporters can expect to see plenty of fireworks.
Marsden have an extremely solid batting line-up and the all-round skills of overseas man Peter Lombard under the captaincy of wicketkeeper Matthew Butters.
Kexborough have 700-run skipper Mark Bray leading their challenge and the teenage exuberance of Jordan Geldart, Ben Potter and talented all-rounder Michael Jepps at the forefront of their challenge.
It’s an enticing prospect and a big day for both clubs – Kexborough having secured their play-off place in the Frank Platt some time ago while Marsden confirmed there’s only last weekend, pipping Lepton to second place in the Cedar Court by just one point.
The winners will join Hoylandswaine and Kirkburton in the top flight next season and it’s too close to call.
Kexborough are at full strength and club secretary Andrew Hinchliffe said: “We are developing well as a club with a lot of young players in the side who have been together for two or three years now, so this will be excellent experience for them.
“At the beginning of the season we wanted both our teams to finish in the top four and we’ve done that, but for the firsts to finish runners-up and be in this final is a bit of a bonus.
“It will be a test, we know that, but hopefully if we can perform on the day we can do the business and get the job done.
“We beat Marsden at Hemplow during the season, so they might feel they have a point to prove over that, but we are going into it with the aim of playing as well as we can and hopefully rewarding the good number of supporters we are expecting to be there.”
Bray, Adam Wiles, Jepps and overseas man Ankur Sondhi will be at the top of the Kexborough order, followed by quick-scoring duo Darren Donoghue and Ben Potter.
Keeper Scott Shillito and veteran Neil Hinchliffe have bags of experience and the line-up is completed by Danny Mulhall Geldart and Russell Dales.
Bray, Jepps and Wiles) all achieved their ECB Level 2 coaching qualification during the winter and they have run an introduction to cricket course for Under 10s this season, attracting 12 to 15 each week.
The club expect to enter an Under 9s in the Sellers Huddersfield Junior League next season and an Under 11s in the Barnsley Junior Cricket League.
Hinchliffe added: “Having now achieved Clubmark accreditation, together with the associated links with local community groups, in particular Kexborough Chiefs Junior Football Club, and the continuing increase on a year-by-year basis of the junior section, it will ensure the long-term future of the club.
“Having Clubmark status will also enable us to look at further improvements to the existing facilities and, if that can be in the Premiership, then that will be a great situation to be in.”
Marsden have seven men with almost 400 runs to their name this season, so they are not relying on any star performer, while South African Lombard has 50 wickets to add to his run tally and has been nicely backed up by Chris Kilner, who has picked up 44 victims.
Unfortunately, Marsden are without four of their top men, including the talented Nicky Clee, who is on non-league football duty with Altrincham.
His father, Norman, steps into the senior line-up, who are aiming to make up for the disappointment of losing to Broad Oak in last year’s rain-affected final.
“I think we are big underdogs having sneaked into the final through the back door, but on the other hand we are coming good at just the right time,” said skipper Butters.
“We are scoring runs at last and bowling people out and, hopefully, we can continue that for one last game and get up into the Premiership where we belong.
“Kexborough have got a very good batting line-up and they beat us earlier in the season, so we are going to have to be at our best to beat them, but we’ve got the experience of being in this before and it’s all about what happens on the day.”
Also missing from the Marsden side are the suspended Nazim Mohammed, Danny Anchor who is on holiday and Andrew May (injured) and Paul Hamer (footballing).
Danny Clee steps up alongside his father and Sam Hall will open the bowling.
The Second XI play-off final is also tomorrow at Broad Oak, between the Oak and Thongsbridge (noon).
Meanwhile, Shepley Seconds have emulated their Hopkinson-winning first team by taking the Schweppes Cup, totalling 35 points from their last six matches.