Wood Cup final preview: Time is right for glory bid, believes skipper

Time is right for Walsden, says Chris Dewhirst
Time is right for Walsden, says Chris Dewhirst

Walsden skipper Chris Dewhirst believes the omens are good as his side bid to land the first leg of the big Central Lancashire League double this weekend.

Opponents Heywood may have ground advantage for Sunday’s John Willie Lees Wood Cup final (1.30) but the Scott Street men have already been victorious at the big Crimble ground this season.

They also won the other completed game between the pair in 2013 and go into the game at full strength and with the confidence gained from being on course for a second successive title.

Those who believe in sequences will also point to the fact that Walsden last won the cup nine years ago and their previous success had been nine years before that.

Heywood were also Walsden’s last final victims, at Milnrow in 2004. Dewhirst, Nick and Stevie Barker and James Rawlinson - who hit the winning boundary in a low-scoring contest - are current Walsden players who took part in that final.

Dewhirst said Walsden had plenty in their favour for Sunday but could take nothing for granted.

“Us and Heywood are probably the best two sides in the league and it is going to be a tough game.

“So far this season we have had the better of things against them so we are hoping it will carry on,” he said.

Walsden were written off in some quarters after a turbulent winter but Dewhirst said: “I’m delighted with the way we have put pre-season issues over the pro and overseas amateur behind us and proved people wrong.”

Ex-county spinner Richard Sladdin, out of the game for several years, was coaxed out of retirement and has proved a major success as pro in spite of a lengthy absence due to a hand injury.

“Richard has exceeded all expectations. He is the best spin bowler in the league and is pushing on towards 40 wickets,” added Dewhirst.

“It is good to have him at the club. He coaches the youngsters and is always there for advice.”

There is a 10-over limit per player in the cup and Heywood’s overseas man, Aussie Riley Paterson, is also a bowler. However, both sides have options, particularly Walsden, who have eight players capable of turning their arm.

Walsden are also capable with the bat right down the order and Dewhirst added: “The hardest job is keeping everyone happy because everyone can bat and bowl.”

The Walsden skipper picked out prolific amateur runmaker Bobby Cross, fellow batsmen Danny Pawson and Ross Zelem, and slow bowler Chris Kaye as among the Heywood danger men.

Dewhirst said that while the cup final was a big occasion his players would not be having a pre-match breakfast or meet early.

“We will try to keep things the same as usual,” he said.