F&B skipper throws down the gauntlet

Mark Smith has been thrilled by his team's start

Mark Smith has been thrilled by his team's start

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Fulwood and Broughton Cricket Club captain Mark Smith has challenged his men to end a decade of mediocrity this season.

The Highfield outfit currently top the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division table at the moment after a faultless start to the summer.

They have begun the new campaign with six wins to narrowly lead second-placed Vernon Carus, who have the same number of points.

The only time F&B have been denied maximum points was when the weather forced their match against Whittingham and Goosnargh to be abandoned.

F&B are considered one of the league’s biggest clubs, but it has been many years since they last challenged at the top.

The past few years have been a tale of mediocrity and it is 11 long years since they last won the league title.

“It was 2005 the last time we won the league,” said Smith. “It was actually my first year in the first team.

“It’s been a long time – too long really.

“But it’s been a good start to the season. We are top of the league and have won every game with maximum points.

“The only one we didn’t get maximum points out of was the abandoned game against Whittingham and Goosnargh.

“The plan is definitely to try to keep this good start going and see if we can win it.”

Smith – who is in the first season of a second stint as the club’s captain – believes the reason why F&B have failed to mount a serious title challenge over the past few years is purely down to player availability.

On the whole this season they have been able to field their strongest XI and that has proven to be significant.

“I think we have had everybody available and that has made a big difference,” Smith said.

“In the past we have had injuries to key players and we have also had people away from home at university.

“But we have to have got everybody together this season.

“Matthew Smith – my brother – came back at the end of last season after missing a season-and-a-half through injury.

“He is like two players rolled into one because he bats at four and is usually the first change bowler.

“Ben Parkinson is back from university and he has done well with the bat.

“Our bowler Chris Brookes has had a few injury problems in the past but has done really well so far this season.”

Smith watched his men thrash bottom side Fylde last weekend before progressing to the second round of the Meyler Cup on Sunday by beating Hoghton.

They are set for a stiffer test this weekend when they travel to third-placed Garstang.

“Garstang finished second last season and I know a lot of their lads – they are a good side,” he said.

“They are similar to ourselves, but hopefully we can beat them.”

WEEKEND FIXTURES

NORTHERN PREMIER LEAGUE: Barrow v Chorley, Darwen v Morecambe, Lancaster v Penrith, Leyland v Kendal, Netherfield v Fleetwood, St Annes v Blackpool, Preston No Game.

PALACE SHIELD PREMIER DIVISION: Croston v Fylde, Freckleton v Thornton Cleveleys, Garstang v Fulwood and Broughton, Great Eccleston v Vernon Carus, Longridge v Torrisholme, Whittingham and Goosnargh v Penwortham.