CALLUM Barlow says confidence is increasing at Atherton despite their winless league start in the Premiership.

Atherton sit bottom with eight defeats from nine. However, Barlow has taken heart from improved performances over the last month, capped off by Saturday’s Peter Stafford Trophy win by six wickets at Astley Bridge.

Not only that, but the Higham Park side are also through to the T20 quarter-finals and travel to Farnworth Social Circle on Friday for the prize of a Finals Day berth.

“Saturday was a good win and much needed,” said captain Barlow.

“Everybody’s working really hard in the league, but after seven or eight defeats on the bounce, it does affect your confidence. But we’re getting a lot closer. At the start of the year, we were getting blown away. The last three or four games, we’ve been close to getting our first win.

“We’re looking forward to the league starting back and having a final crack at it.

“The league is so competitive, the standard’s really high. We knew that at the start of season, but it has shocked us a bit. It’s been even harder than we thought.

“We definitely feel like we’re in a position to have another crack next year, indicated by these last three or four games – it’s just been fine lines.

“We need four or five wins. That’s the only way we’re going to stay up.”

“But we’ve had a great time in the T20. We won our first four matches and qualified. It’s just clicked for us.”

Saturday saw Bridge post 219-6 from their 45 overs, recovering from 13-3 and 85-6. Professional Denuwan Dadallage hit an unbeaten 111 off 107 balls and shared an unbeaten 134 with wicketkeeper Matthew Hargraves (51 not out).

“Their pro came in and batted brilliantly,” said Barlow, who saw Harry Allanby’s left-arm spin and Adeel Baig’s seamers lead an all-round team bowling display with 1-33 and 2-14 from nine overs respectively.

“They grafted and got a good score on the board. But we knew it was a small ground and played positively.”

In reply, the only problem Atherton faced was losing Australian pro Jesse Dinnie cheaply to slip to 14-1. Eighteen-year-old Robert Harper hit 59 having been elevated to open, Allanby added 66 and Baig, last year’s pro but now an amateur, finished 47 not out.

“Robert is a young lad who’s come into the team this year and has been batting eight or nine. He’s chipped in with a few twenties, so we thought we’d give him a go higher up in this competition,” added Barlow, who also hailed new signings Dinnie and Allanby for their impact on the whole club and not just the first team.

“Robert opened the batting and was superb. That’s a massive positive. He had to come off injured on 20 and go back out, making it even more special.”

Atherton have an outside chance of Peter Stafford knockout cricket. They must beat Little Lever on Saturday and hope leaders Kearsley lose to Astley Bridge.