ASTLEY Bridge captain Simon Entwistle is under no illusions about the task facing his side as they prepare to host Bolton League leaders Farnworth Social Circle tomorrow.
But the 35-year-old skipper has promised the table toppers’ title rivals – including third-placed Farnworth, who they face today – his team will be no pushovers.
“When you play the top sides it is all about going into it with the right attitude – that you are not just there to make up the numbers,” he said.
“We should enjoy the challenge and make it as hard as possible for them to win the game and take the points.
“And we know that if we play our best cricket, all of the sides in the top five are beatable.”
Despite that, Entwistle believes the gap between the top teams in the division and the rest is as big as it has ever been.
They bounced back from finishing second bottom in the table in 2012 to climb to a more respectable ninth-placed finish last season in Entwistle’s first year in charge.
After 14 games this campaign they sit in seventh, picking up the majority of their points from victories against teams below them in the table, although they did earn the prized scalps of Greenmount and Farnworth in May.
“We are in the middle of a rebuilding process, so I think the aim for us at present is to try and keep finishing higher up the table,” he said.
“But to take that next step and break into the top five you need a strong squad and a very good pro, which obviously costs money.
“Little Lever had an excellent season to win the title last year, but there is only so far team spirit can take you.
“That team has been broken up, with their captain – Jonny Kerrigan – moving to Bradshaw.
“I don’t think it is a coincidence that they are now Farnworth Social Circle’s main challengers for the title, while the sides that consistently finish in the top five are the ones with the biggest budgets.”
Bradshaw, led by experienced pro and captain Saeed Anwar Jnr, recently completed the double over Astley Bridge. But while Entwistle believes they have the quality to push the league leaders all the way, he says Social Circle – who Astley Bridge meet for the first time this season tomorrow – remain the best equipped to complete the job.
“We are just over half way through the season and I believe Social Circle deserve to be top,” he added.
“Bradshaw are a solid team, but Social Circle are more rounded in all departments, with a balanced bowling attack and strong batting line-up.
“They don’t rely on one or two star players, so I think they are leading by merit.”