IT is his first full season as first-team captain, and Oliver Sutcliffe seems quietly confident about Heaton’s chances of success.

The Lower Pools side are hot on the heels of Association Division leaders Atherton ahead of tomorrow’s crunch match, at home to third-placed Darcy Lever.

Though he insists the title race is still getting going, with any number of genuine contenders involved, he has been pleased with their efforts so far.

Though some distance behind Pool A leaders Horwich, they are still in with a shout of making the knockout stages of the T20 competition as one of the three best group runners-up.

He would have relished the opportunity for Heaton to test themselves against the Premiership table-toppers but their clash fell foul of the weather.

They are due to take on visitors Blackrod this evening (6pm start).

Their BCL exploits are the clear priority, however.

“It’s still early days in the league,” he told The Bolton News.

“You don’t know at this stage who’s going to fall away and there are teams who can go on a run and make a real charge towards the top, I’d say Tonge are one of those.

“It’s second-against-third on Saturday and I think it should be a good game.

“We beat Darcy Lever comfortably last year but they look to have improved quite a bit and when Dominic Gavin is bowling you just know he’ll bowl well at you, he always does.”

The numbers back that theory up, since Gavin – with three five-wicket hauls – has 16 scalps to his name this year, level with Tonge pro Tilaksha Malshan, who has had five matches to Gavin’s four.

Sutcliffe, meanwhile, is riding high in the batting charts, his 144 runs in four matches coming at an average of 48.

Team-mate Saliq Rasheed is just above him with 169 in his four knocks, the opener averaging 84.5.

Having been at Church Road since the age of 10, one-club man Sutcliffe was perhaps the natural choice to succeed captain Gary Garner when he departed midway through the 2018 season.

“I’m just taking what I learned last year after Gary left,” he added. “I have had a few scores which is always a help when you’re the captain.

“Things are going well for us, we’d have liked to have the same number of games as Atherton because we’re unbeaten but we’re not top of the table.

“We played really well to put up 250 batting first against Tonge in May but the rain meant they couldn’t get in to bat, and the games against Astley Bridge and Eagley were washouts.

“We’ve had new drainage put in at the club this year so hopefully we won’t lose as many games to the weather as we did last season.

“Obviously promotion has to be the aim for us this season, especially given the start we’ve made but we’ll just take each game as it comes.

“We’ll just concentrate on what we do without worrying too much about who we’re up against or what they can do.

“We’re confident we can beat anyone if we play to the best of our ability.”