THE Bradford League Division One title race is set for a thrilling climax on Saturday with four teams still capable of taking the crown, writes Andrew Hunt.
Woodlands went into last weekend with a 33 point lead over nearest rivals Cleckheaton but defeats to Farsley and East Bierley saw their advantage cut to just four.
Having only lost one of their first 18 matches, the champions have now lost their last three and there is a real danger that they could be overhauled by John Wood’s Cleckheaton.
Woodlands suffered a five-wicket defeat to local rivals East Bierley on Saturday.
Although Simon Mason (44) and Scott Richardson (33) got Woodlands off to a good start, they struggled against Bierley spinners Kez Ahmed (3-44) and Luke Jarvis (3-45) and were restricted to 173-8.
Opener Mark Gill made 61 in reply and with support from Gavin Hamilton (31), they eased Bierley home with almost 15 overs to spare, despite Chris Brice claiming 3-51.
Woodlands knew victory over Farsley on Sunday wopuld still be enough for them to clinch the title, but they faltered again losing by 93 runs as the home side boosted their hopes of survival.
Opener Neil Laidlaw hit 86 and captain Ian Philliskirk (74) as Farsley posted 242-9, despite Pieter Swanepoel claiming 5-61.
Grant Soames (43) and Chris Brice (37) were the only Woodlands batsmen to shine in a reply of 149 with Philliskirk (4-39) and Matthew Lumb (3-37) doing the damage.
Farsley claimed a maximum 20 points from the game to move within 12 of third-bottom Hanging Heaton.
Cleckheaton took full advantage of Woodlands two defeats as they racked up 38 points from their two games.
The Moorendeers won a thriller against Bradford & Bingley last Saturday when they edged home by just one-wicket before inflicting further misery on Hanging Heaton 24 hours later.
David Clow top scored with 55 and Scott Etherington made 37 as Bingley posted 175 all out, with spinner Ammar Mahmood claiming 5-26.
Despite Ian Nicholson’s 60, Cleckheaton were in trouble at 108-8 before Joe Robinson and Iain Wardlaw produced a vital 54-run ninth wicket stand.
Wardlaw (37) was eventually out with Cleck 14 runs short of victory but Robinson (21no) and last-man Andrew Deegan saw the Moorenders home.
Cleckheaton then produced an emphatic victory over Hanging Heaton on Sunday.
Heaton have not won since defeating Pudsey St Lawrence on August 4 and they never threatened an upset at Moorend as captain John Wood (50) and fellow opener Tim Jackson (50), inspired a knock of 255-9.
Mahmood (3-26) again shone with the ball and with support from Andrew Deegan (3-36) and Wardlaw (3-33), they dismissed Heaton for 126.
Heaton are low in confidence and suffered a demorolising defeat to Lightcliffe on Saturday.
Heaton appeared on course for victory when they reduced Lightcliffe to 46-5 in reply to their 211-8, as David Stiff (3-50) tore into their top order.
However, Charlie Roebuck hit an unbeaten 129 as Lightcliffe sealed a thrilling win.
Rob McFarlane (44), Ahsan Butt (38), Joe Fraser (36) and James Stansfield (34) also contributed for Heaton, while Alex Stead (3-52) and Chris Greenwood (3-58) were the pick of the Lightcliffe bowlers.
Lightcliffe beat Pudsey Congs by seven runs on Sunday and they also go into the final matches with a chance of the title, trailing Woodlands by 10 points.
East Bierley followed Saturday’s win over Woodlands with a good victory over Manningham Mills and they are fourth, 11 points behind the leaders.
Bierley face a huge final weekend as they can still win the title, although they need other results to go their way, and they then meet Manningham in a Priestley Cup final replay at Spen Victoria on Sunday.
Overseas player Rao Anjum and spinner Kez Ahmed shone as East Bierley followed up their victory over Woodlands with a triumph at Manningham Mills.
Overseas player Rao Anjum top scored with 75 as Bierley made 242-7 before bowling out Mills for 136, with Kez Ahmed took 5-38 impressing.
Gomersal earned two victories in Division Two but they are unable to win promotion.
Baildon have secured a top-two finish, while the second promotion place comes down to Saturday’s final game of the season between Morley and Yeadon.
Gomersal earned a six-wicket win over Windhill on Saturday as Greg Pickles (55), Richard Gould (52) and Jack Seddon (42no) steered them past Windhill’s score of 212-6.
Gomersal then overcame neighbours Spen Victoria by 27 runs on Sunday. Captain Adam Greenwood (53) and Richard Seddon (40) top scored as Gomersal made 181-9, with former Gomersal captain Rob Burton (3-21) the best Spen bowler.
Spen were dismissed for 154 as Gomersal sealed a 27-run win.
Hartshead Moor are eighth after a 60-run victory over Brighouse on Sunday.
Graham Hilton (49) helped Hartshead post 228-9 and although Zahir Hussain made 99 in reply, Brighouse were dismissed for 168.