Walsden shoot clear at the top

Richard Sladdin (pictured) and James Rawlinson worked wonders for Walsden
Richard Sladdin (pictured) and James Rawlinson worked wonders for Walsden

Walsden have stormed into a six-point lead at the top of the Central Lancashire League in their quest for a second successive title.

James Rawlinson’s best knock of the season and a superb return from injury by professional Richard Sladdin helped the Scott Street side beat visitors Heywood by 44 runs last Saturday.

An excellent day for Chris Dewhirst’s men was completed by news that second-placed Littleborough had lost to Clifton and third-placed Norden had been beaten by Rochdale.

Walsden cannot afford to get complacent, however, with a trip to Clifton on Saturday and a visit from Littleborough on Sunday.

Opener Rawlinson made an excellent 90 to help Walsden total 226 against fourth-placed Heywood.

He was seventh out with the total on 195 and his efforts should have been rewarded with a bigger total, several batsmen falling to poor shots.

Walsden had got away to a flyer, seeing off the opening bowlers and forcing Haywood to turn to the spin of Joe Lovell and Chris Kaye. The pair picked up all 10 wickets between them with Kaye getting the lion’s share - seven.

Jake Hooson dismissed Lancashire Academy player Ross Zelem for 29 and South African pro Travis Townsend for a duck before Sladdin came to the fore.

The ex-county spinner had been pressed back into action a little quicker than planned after injury as replacement professionals in short supply.

But Sladdin, who missed 10 league and cup games after fracturing the base of the little finger of his bowling hand, was straight back into the groove.

He took five for 62 off 17.3 overs and helped clear up the Heywood innings for 182 with help of Joe Gale’s two wickets at the other end.

Walsden seconds also beat their Heywood counterparts and both they and the firsts should go into their forthcoming cup final dates with Heywood brimful of confidence.

The seconds won by seven wickets after Heywood only just made it to three figures.