THONGSBRIDGE skipper Ian Ross is confident his side can push Netherton Con all the way for Subscription Cup honours.
The full Slawit and Golcar Cars-sponsored Huddersfield Bowling League programme roars into life on Saturday and Ross, who has replaced John Senior at the helm of last season’s runners-up, believes his side have got stronger.
“We have not made any significant changes to the team but with most of us living in South Yorkshire, it’s taken a few seasons for us to get to know the greens well.
“We’ve been enjoying the competition and I think that now we have got more experience of the greens, then we can mount a real challenge.”
He added: “We only lost out by a couple of points last year, and over 17 games that’s not bad going, and I think it’s going to be close again.
“Netherton have beaten us regularly during the last few seasons and I think if we can finally get a result against them, then we will have a real chance.
“I also think Slaithwaite and Almondbury Lib will also be there or thereabouts, knocking on the door.”
If the title does go down to the wire then the fixtures have thrown up the possibility of a winner-takes-all final day match.
Tantalisingly, in the last match of the season, Netherton face Thongsbridge at Marsh United.
Keith Midwood, who has skippered Netherton to four consecutive league titles, admitted: “Yes, there’ll be pressure on us once again, but as four-times winners we have to expect that.
“I always claim there are no easy games, I’m expecting Thongsbridge to be up there with us again, and it will probably be the same four in contention.
“Moldgreen Con, who were promoted last season are a team I’m tipping to cause some upsets.
“They’re a settled, close-knit side and I think they’ll rattle a few folk.”
“I haven’t had to strengthen the squad – it’s difficult to improve on the likes of Paul Sigsworth, Steven Hirst and Ashley Daykin – and I can’t wait to get going – it’s going to be one hell of a season.”
Slaithwaite skipper, Gerald Sykes, whose team finished third, was strangely subdued.
He said: “We’ve lost a couple ofplayers but we’re trying to get a couple to sign on with us.
“We’ll have to play better than we did last season, but we’re still aiming for a top three or four finish.”
Ashley Tattersley, who guided Almondbury Lib to a superb second Henry Taylor Cup win in three years, believes his side can cause a few upsets in the Huddersfield League.
He said: “Marcus Hill has rejoined us from Bradley and Colne and Kevin Williams, a South Yorkshire colleague of Hill’s and Rob Wiltshire’s, has joined the club so we have strengthened a bit there.
“Last season we lost only twice in our opening seven games, and that was against the leaders, but I’m hoping we can get in and among them this time.
“One of our main strengths is that we have a lot of players who have played together for a long time, and we’ll certainly be aiming for another top-five finish.”
Leading Huddersfield trio, Jonathan Sykes, Ashley Daykin and Paul Sigsworth, are in action during the first week of qualifying for the Clifford Crawshaw Memorial Classic, at Hill Crest Bowling Club on Saturday.
Organiser John Lodge said: “The standard of entry for this year’s event remains as high as ever.
“The full entry signs were up after 21 days, with some 35 players now on the reserve list.
“The prize fund this year is £5,890, ensuring the Classic stays in the forefront of Yorkshire ‘open’ handicaps.”
Saturday’s draw: Chris Hill (Sheffield) v David Poole (Doncaster), Lee Lawton (Failsworth) v Matt Kelley-Walley (Burton), James Fitzpatrick (Liverpool) v Matt Beever (Sheffield), Jonathan Sykes (Huddersfield) v Dave Penkith (Warrington), John Metters (Blackburn) v Ashley Daykin (Huddersfield), Andy Mailer (Sheffield) v Paul Bailey (Birmingham), Paul Sigsworth (Huddersfield) v Robbie Fitzpatrick (Liverpool), Andy Whittaker (Sheffield) v Paul Hillam (Eccleshill).
The annual match between Yorkshire and the Civil Service takes place at Hill Crest BC on Sunday (2.00):
How they line-up: D Metcalfe v A Lane, J Hanson v R Stopford, D Fisher v J Durrans, A Beaumont v P Whiteley, T Bannister v N Kershaw, S Williams v J Haigh, D Cowsill v M Ireland, D Pitchforth v D Thorpe, R Lloyd v C Brown, J Spinks v A Mellor, L Griffin v D Foxton, A Kenyon v B Carroll.