Weekend cricket previews: Preston heading in the right direction and Longridge aim to up the ante
Preston chairman Yunus Patel insists the dark clouds hovering over West Cliff for so long have made way for a bright new horizon.
The club’s fortunes could not have slumped any lower last season when they were relegated from the Northern League Division One.
They finished rock-bottom of the table with an embarrassing minus-11 points tally – losing every one of their 22 league games.
Mismanagement of the club off the field was the major reason behind the club’s demise, but after the final ball of 2018 was bowled, it set about restoring its once proud reputation.
A new committee was put in place which led to a robust player recruitment drive over the winter – the result being Preston now sit top of the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division table.
They have won four and lost one of their opening six games – they were denied victory last weekend when the weather forced their top-of-the-table clash against Morecambe to be abandoned.
While there is still a long way to go this season, Patel revealed the feelgood factor has returned.
“We needed it didn’t we,” Patel said in reference to his men’s fine start to the season.
“After last year’s debacle, it was quite atrocious. There was a lot of mismanagement of the club and we lost seven players on the eve of the season.
“We had a makeshift XI out every week. It was really bad – we finished on a minus points total.
“But there’s a good atmosphere this season.
“It helps if you are winning and a lot more of the guys are coming down to the club and practising.”
This weekend, Preston travel to third-placed Croston, who managed to beat the weather last weekend to register an excellent win over South Shore.
That put them a point off the top and Patel said: “Croston are quite a good team. They are in a good position in the table and that’s because of the way they are run.
“They are a small village but have a lot of quality volunteers and good young players.
“We will see what we can do – it’s two decent sides. Our first team are doing very well at the moment and hopefully we can continue to compete.”
Meanwhile, Longridge play the first of back-to-back Northern Premier Cricket League matches this weekend as they look to put pressure on some of the division’s leading lights.
Six games into their first season at this level and Longridge find themselves seventh in the 12-team division, albeit only eight points behind second-placed Fleetwood.
They welcome eighth-placed Kendal to the Newsham Memorial Ground on Saturday before hosting neighbours Garstang seven days later.
All in all, it has been a promising start for Nick Wilkinson’s first XI after they moved across from the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield.
“We were a bit like rabbits in the headlights against Netherfield in the first week,” said bowler Ian Simpson.
“We didn’t bat as well as we could have but, as the league and cup games have gone on, we have gained confidence from winning some of those.
“We don’t fear teams, we respect them but we know we have a really good, strong, bowling unit.
“We’re still feeling we can compete with anybody and we’re on a run now of what we think is three or four winnable games.”
The Longridge attack has impressed, bowling out their opposition in three matches and taking at least seven wickets in their other outings.
Their batters had not really fired until last weekend when they posted their highest league total of the season with 273-4 at St Annes.
It came seven days after they were shot out for 129 chasing Fleetwood’s 174-7 instead of playing for a losing draw, something Simpson admitted was a learning curve.
“We’re still in that ‘win-lose’ cricket mentality,” he said.
“It will take us a while to get around that draw mentality because we could have denied Fleetwood the full points.
“We’ve always been used to there being a target and you chase that going down to the last man.
“That’s probably a bit naive of us but we’ll learn from that and know what to do the next time it happens.”
NORTHERN LEAGUE DIVISION ONE: Barrow v Fulwood and Broughton, Blackpool v Penrith, Fleetwood v St Annes, Garstang v Chorley, Longridge v Kendal, Netherfield v Leyland.
MOORE & SMALLEY PALACE SHIELD PREMIER DIVISION: Croston v Preston, Eccleston v Vernon Carus, Fylde v Lancaster, Morecambe v Great Eccleston, New Longton v South Shore, Penwortham v Standish.