Hall Bower are battling to avoid a second successive relegation but skipper Tom Cliffe insists the future is bright beneath Castle Hill.
The Bower – who dropped out of the Drakes Premiership on the final day of last season – need two wins now to stand any chance of slipping into the Cedar Court Conference for 2015.
Cliffe’s side are at home to Cawthorne today – one of the teams they could potentially overhaul with two maximums – and then travel to Thongsbridge next week when promotion could be on the line for the Miry Lane men.
It’s a big ask for the Bower – by no means impossible as Cawthorne, Lascelles Hall and Clayton West remain within striking distance – but Cliffe is confident some vital building blocks are already in place for the remainder of this decade.
“After last season’s relegation we lost five or six experienced players and we’ve cut back the budget after spending a little bit of money over the last few years, but it’s a very positive story at the club because of our juniors,” said Cliffe.
“We have a full set of junior sides for the first time, which is fantastic, and they have all got very good potential for the upcoming years.
“Lads like Sam Baxter and Alex Crane have been playing in the Seconds and they have also had experience at first-team level already, even though they are probably a couple of years ahead of their time.
“It would be great if we could stay in the Championship for all the young lads who are coming through, and that still remains very much our target, but the people running our junior level have done a brilliant job and it means we have plenty of positives to look forward to.
“We’ve got lads playing in the Yorkshire set-up at a young level, and our Under 13s got to the Romida Examiner Salver finals day which we hosted, so I have no doubt that in the next year or two we are really going to be pushing forward.”
Cliffe believed three wins from the final five matches would be enough to keep them up, but after taking a point of leaders Broad Oak, they suffered six-point defeats to Clayton West and Moorlands and now need to close a 10-point gap on their rivals with just two matches to play.
Wajid Hussain has been easily the club’s most successful batsman this summer with 533 runs at 33.31, while no-one else has got past 300 at first-team level.
Wajid has also weighed in with his spin, taking 27 wickets at 24.81 to lend support to major wicket-taker Javaid Ahmed, who has collected 39 victims at 19.41.
“We have been a bit inconsistent throughout the season and not really been on the end of hammerings – a lot of the games we’ve lost have really been quite tight,” explained Cliffe.
“I think we’ve had some bad luck along the way and batting second has not been our strength – when we’ve batted first and been able to runs on the board we’ve generally been all right.
“Wajid had a slow start with the bat but has still come through, but he has bowled pretty well throughout the season and has been my go-to man when I’ve needed to slow things down with some spin.
“Javaid has had a disappointing season with the bat but he’s been very strong with the ball, and our problem, really, has been in putting everything together.
“Ben Dunne, for instance, has been batting down the order because of the strength of our line-up, until going up to open recently, and we have nine or 10 in the side who would class themselves as batters, but we just haven’t performed consistently enough.”
Experienced Russ Evans has been as consistent as anyone with the bat has contributed a few 50s while Scott Dyson, another with many a season under his belt, has produced his share of overs too.
Faisal Khan is probably the club’s quickest bowler – he took 40 wickets when they were promoted last time – but he is only around the 20 mark this season.
“We have a lot of potential at the club, but we have had to fill in with some older lads at times this season and that’s meant we’ve not been as strong some weekends as we would ideally have liked, especially with holidays kicking in,” added Cliffe.
“It would be great if we could stay up – and we know we have to go out and perform to achieve that – but the future here is looking good.”