CLECKHEATON have made a dreadful start to the Bradford League season, sitting rock-bottom of the Premier Division and still smarting from a Priestley Cup defeat to lower-league Ossett last Sunday.

But skipper Mally Nicholson feels that with players returning and a favourable run coming up, starting tomorrow at Batley, the BD19 side can soon bounce back.

He said: “We’re just hoping to get some points on the board this weekend, but if you look at who we’ve played in the first few games (New Farnley, Townville and Woodlands), they’ll probably all be in the top four by the end of the season.

“It’s been a hard start and we’ve had players missing. (Star batsman) Kris Ward has been banned and (spinner) Andrew Deegan is injured, but he should be back after the Batley game following his operation.

“We’ve been missing our overseas, our opening batter and main spinner, and it will be a similar team to last Saturday against Woodlands for this weekend, but Batley are in a similar position to us.

“Hopefully if we can win this weekend, we can push on, as I think we have four or five winnable games in a row.

“I don’t know too much about Batley, and it will be difficult with no supporters, but it’s a good wicket at Mount Pleasant and a nice little ground.

“I hope we can get the win, as it should give us a bit of confidence.”

If confidence was low after three defeats from three in the league, it was even more shot after the 29-run loss to Division One side Ossett last Sunday.

Nicholson admitted: “Ossett was pretty disappointing and we struggled in the middle overs with the ball in particular, after the opening spells had gone alright.

“It affects anyone, losing to a team in the division below, but they had a lad who smashed 70-odd and fair play, he took his chances well. It’s just been a bad start and then we went down there.

“But it’s always hard against the top teams, and we had three second-teamers playing at Woodlands too.”

Amid the gloom, there have been some positive individual performances, with Nicholson saying: “Harvey Booth has played well with bat and ball, and young Ethan Lee has had some good games in his first full year in senior cricket.

“Amir Hussain has shown good signs and I think he will bowl well in partnership with Andrew when he returns.

“Ian Wardlaw has been unlucky opening the bowling, a few decisions haven’t gone his way, which tends to happen when you’re not getting the rub of the green.

“I’ve not had a good start myself with the bat but hopefully I can get a score against Batley and go from there.

“Ideally that coincides with a decent run for us and we can go up the table.”

Elsewhere tomorrow, two Bradford teams collide in the Premier Division as Bradford & Bingley host fast-starting Woodlands.

Woodlands are in Heavy Woollen Cup Second Round action on Sunday too, as they visit Premier Division title rivals Townville.