Fylde coast cricket preview: Thornton Cleveleys relish return to normality and underdog status
Fylde coast cricket takes another step closer to normality tomorrow, with indoor facilities open at grounds and spectators allowed.
And that’s great news for Thornton Cleveleys captain Daniel Howard, whose side have made a flying start to the Palace Shield campaign and host premier division pace-setters Vernon Carus.
Rained off last weekend, Thornton have won all three completed games since their opening-day defeat by Penwortham and are third in the table.
Howard relishes tomorrow’s challenge and told The Gazette: “From a club perspective it’s good to see restrictions easing, so spectators can come back and that helps the hospitality side.
“From the playing point of view, it will be good to use changing rooms and indoor facilities again.
“It will seem more like a normal Saturday’s cricket, which I’m sure all teams are looking forward to.”
Thornton Cleveleys held their own against the Fylde’s Northern Premier League clubs in the mini-competition staged at the back end of last season and they feel like underdogs again in 2021.
Skipper Howard explained: “It was good to get some cricket played last season but it’s great to have a normal league back and hopefully we’ll be able to complete the full season.
“We were in division one in 2019 and won promotion, so we see ourselves as underdogs in our first season back in the premier. We’re very pleased with the start, so we’ll just see what transpires.
“It was a very strange start to the season, having only one or two nets before the first league game and an inter-squad T20. You usually get three months of indoor nets, so we’re expecting aching bodies but so far so good.”
There is a league within a league in the premier division as the five Fylde coast clubs vie for supremacy. And Thornton have made the brightest start, having already defeated South Shore.
“We definitely want to lead the way and get as high up as we can, but we always assess each game week by week,” added Howard. “Vernons are setting the pace and have been very successful in the Shield over the years, so it will be a tough game (though they lost for the first time to Preston last weekend).
“We beat them in the smaller league last season, when both teams had players missing, and they have started well again. But there are a number of strong teams. Our game against Penrith was cancelled last weekend and they are looking good too.
“We have a good nucleus of players, from younger lads to more senior ones, who all need to combine if we are going to get a win.”
Some of them have really impressed the skipper so far: “Jon Eade has already had his first premier division hundred, having had a 98 and a 99 previously, so he’s chuffed about that,” he said.
“Anthony Ellison, who has joined us from Fylde, has shown his class and is our top wicket-taker (with 11). The evergreen Greg Tirrell has also bowled well, so those two have made my job a lot easier.”
Squad numbers are looking healthy despite issues arising from the pandemic. “That side has been really positive,” said Howard.
“For a captain it does help that players are not going abroad and are not planning weddings this summer. That’s a big bonus but it could be interesting next year if a lot of players want to go on holiday ... or get married!”
Northern Premier Cricket League: Fleetwood v Morecambe, Lancaster v Blackpool, Longridge v St Annes, Garstang v Chorley, Leyland v Kendal, Netherfield v Fulwood and Broughton.
Liverpool Competition first division north: Lytham v Newton-le-Willows
Moore and Smalley Palace Shield premier division: Eccleston v Fylde, Great Eccleston v Croston, Penrith v South Shore, Preston v Kirkham and Wesham, Thornton Cleveleys v Vernon Carus, Penwortham v Barrow.
Division 1B: Morecambe 2 v Fleetwood 2, St Annes 2 v Longridge 2.
Division Two: Norcross v Wrea Green
Moore and Smalley Palace Shield division 1B: Great Eccleston 2 v Blackpool 2.
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