Standish eye title tilt next season
STANDISH captain Sam Heeley hopes his side can build on their season of over-achievement by challenging for the title next summer.
After years at the wrong end of the table, the Green Lane side are in the thick of the fight for a Lancashire Knockout place with five games to go.
They are at home to another team battling for a top-five place in new boys Bury.
But whatever happens in the run-in, Heeley has seen enough from his team to feel confident about the future.
“The last time we were in the top five was 2007 when we had the likes of Bazid Khan and won the Cross Cup,” he said.
“Since then we have had the odd win or two in the season and we have gone through a few phases of players.
“At the start of the season we thought a top-half finish would be good. But after the first eight games or so we started thinking we could challenge for a Lancashire Knockout place.”
Heeley says the decision to fill the team with local and young players is the main reason behind Standish’s big improvement.
“The average age has come down dramatically,” he said. “The oldest is only 27 (professional) David Bowden (pictured) is 24, Niall Burke is 21 and a couple of youngsters have come up from the second team are just 17.
“The young players have stepped up and everyone has chipped in when we have needed them to. A lot of players have stepped up more than we thought they would which has been a pleasant surprise.
“We’ve got a local feel to the team this year with local lads and a younger team and there’s a good buzz about the club.
“We want to build on this year. We have set targets to bring in lads next year so, hopefully we will be challenging for top spot next season.”
Standish’s home record suggests Bury will face a tough task tomorrow, the Wigan side being strong on their own ground apart from a recent blip.
“We had a bad couple of weeks when Flixton beat us heavily, and the week after Adlington beat us,” said Heeley.
“They were probably our two worst performances of the season. We had a 100 per cent home record before that but those two defeats ruined that.
“But we got it back and now we've got everyone back from holidays and other things so we will have our strongest team until the end of the season.”