CAPTAIN Pieter Swanepoel praised the character of his players as Woodlands edged home by four runs at Bradford & Bingley, but knows there is improvement needed if they are to be serious challengers for the JCT600 Bradford League Division One title.

Woodlands' batting frailties were again exposed as Bingley restricted them to 143-9, but the visitors hit back to bowl out the home side for 139 in a tense finish with off spinner Grant Soames (4-35) and slow left armer Chris Brice (3-55) doing most of the damage.

The result leaves Woodlands eight points clear in second place, but 25 points adrift of leaders Pudsey St Lawrence.

"It was an important win," said Swanepoel. "We need to pull these close games out of the bag. We have been finding it hard to win games and a lot of improvement is needed, but the lads pulled together to win.

"Our total of 143 was vulnerable on a wicket that was two paced with an uneven bounce. Sometimes our top order batsmen get into good positions, but don't convert into big scores and they need to do that. However, our lads showed a lot of character to win."

Woodlands lost opener Sam Frankland, caught at slip without a run on the board, but recovered through Duncan Snell (34) and Scott Richardson (27), who put on 61 for the second wicket. However, they lost wickets at regular intervals after that to an impressive Bingley attack in which paceman Matthew Simpson (3-40) and slow left arm bowler Noman Ali (3-28) impressed.

A middle-order collapse saw four wickets fall for five runs as the visitors slid from 106-4 to 111-8 before Swanepoel hit an unbeaten 26 to lift the score to 143 – a crucial innings considering the narrow margin of victory.

Bingley lost opener Charlie Best without scoring, but their problems really began when spinners Brice and Soames entered the attack. Brice took two wickets in his first over, skipper Phil Slater caught at mid-off off his first ball and Patrick Dixon trapped lbw off the last ball.

Ryan Cooper appeared to offer their best chance of winning, sharing stands of 22 with Scott Etherington and 34 with David Clow, but just when he appeared set to lead Bingley to victory he was caught and bowled by Soames one run for 49 to leave Bingley on 91-6.

They lost Chris Thompson lbw to Brice two runs later, one of two disputed decisions, but Noman Ali came agonisingly close to leading his side home with 35, including thee fours and one six, until he was last out, bowled round his legs by Soames with just five needed to win with 5.3 overs left.

In their previous home match, Bingley had lost by five runs against New Farnley and Ali said: "It is frustrating to lose by such a small margin again. A win would have taken us into second place. We bowled really well, but we need to show more consistency with our batting."