Burslem ready to make amends in NSSCL Premier Division, says Kevin Mountford.
By ChrisTravers - The Sentinel.
Burslem are back in the big time – and captain Kevin Mountford is determined to lay a few ghosts to rest. Mountford and Co last sampled life in the Premier Division in 2014, but it turned out to be a nightmare campaign. A 17-match winless run to open the season left them rock-bottom of the division before they belatedly rallied to win four of their last five matches.
The Festival Heights club regrouped from that relegation and won promotion at the end of last season. Mountford, though, is eager to prove to the cricketing public that Burslem can make a better fist of life back at the top table.
“We have got a bit of a point to prove in the Premier Division because the last time left a bitter taste in the mouth," said the 32-year-old. “We had better players and were a better team than we showed back then". “It took us three-quarters of the season to pick up that first win and it was a struggle. But we took a lot of confidence from last season. We had six or seven games washed out, but only lost once and still managed to finish in the promotion places."
Burslem have already displayed their capabilities in the Premier Division after starting with a 25-point victory over Whitmore last weekend. All-rounder Christi Viljoen has returned to the club, while a healthy smattering of experience in the shape of Chris Lowndes, Mick Rowley and Michael Brown gives them a fighting chance of preserving their place.
However, Mountford isn't just content with keeping Burslem's heads above water over the next few months.
“We had a look at a few players in the winter, but we have confidence as a unit and a great balance to the side," added Mountford, who takes his side to Longton tomorrow. “It was important to get that first victory last weekend because the players were nervous beforehand."
“They know it's a step up in standard, so to beat a good side like Whitmore really helps with confidence. We want to finish as high as we can. We are looking a bit higher than just staying in the division." “Ashcombe Park and Betley managed to do it last season, so why can't we?"
Longton are certainly setting their sights high after ending up in fourth place last season. They already possessed a rich bounty of seam options, but recruited Staffordshire paceman Dan Cumming from Knypersley to add to their armoury. He joins skipper Ed Jones, Rich Brough and Rob Hemmings in a handy-looking pace attack, with Tom Steele providing the spin option.
They made a flying start to this season as well, easily beating Checkley in last Saturday's opener.
“We started off bowling in the right areas and asked questions of their batsmen. The ball was swinging and it caused them a fair bit of trouble," said Jones.
“I think we've got one of the best seam attacks in the league and we are looking to improve year on year. We've strengthened by adding Dan to the attack and we've also got people in the seconds who can come in and do a job, not just fill in." “We've now got five bowlers – who all have league five-fors – who can produce match-winning performances. It creates competition. People will get their chance and if they do well they will keep getting chances and will warrant opportunities."
Jones, who returned to the club in 2011, says it is time for Longton to start challenging consistently for honours.
“We are talking about going as far as we can in all competitions. We're aiming for some silverware," he added. “We've only won one cup since I've been back, which isn't good enough for a club like ours." “The league is the big aim. You have to win the games you're expected to and try to get positive results against the stronger teams." “It's usually 11 or 12 wins which gets you the title, so if we can make it two from two this weekend then that gives us a leg up."
“I don't mind the extra expectation on us. It's better than any negativity."