TRYING to compete with New Farnley seems a bit like asking Huddersfield Town to match Manchester City.

"What can you do when they want a bowler and sign Ajmal Shahzad or if they want a batsman they have got Andy Hodd for the rest of the season?" said Cleckheaton skipper Mal Nicholson of the Leeds-based club.

So the Moorenders haven't tried to match the All Rounder Cricket Bradford Premier League Premier Division leaders.

"We signed Dave Paynter in the winter, but he hasn't been available because of work.

"We could have signed another player for a bit more money, but instead we have tried to bring on our youngsters, such as 15-year-old Ethan Lee and 14-year-old Alex Midgley.

"Ethan is an opening bat and Alex bowls seam.

"We have played some good cricket and we have played some poor cricket, but we know that we will be up and down in terms of performance because that is what you get with youngsters in the team."

What has possibly pleased Nicholson even more than the mid-teenagers stepping up, however, has been the progress of bowlers Joshua Thurwell and Jonathan Whiteoak.

"Joshua came to us at the beginning of the season from Carlton, who are two divisions below us.

"It took him time to adjust, and he couldn't buy a wicket at the start of the season, but he has learnt and now he is taking wickets for fun."

Thurwell took 6-55 against Farsley recently, despite them scoring 268-8, while Whiteoak, who came from Lightcliffe, bagged 3-48 against Methley, 4-51 against Scholes, 3-41 against Townville and 3-18 verses Woodlands.

Add in Tayyab Tahir, who Nicholson calls "one of the best overseas batsmen I have seen in the Bradford League" and opening bat Toby Thorpe, who has adjusted to life in the top flight, and the skipper believes that they have enough to stay out of trouble.

Cleckheaton are currently eighth with 113 points, with Lightcliffe (also on 113), Bradford & Bingley (87), Scholes (84) and East Bierley (60) below them.

The Moorenders are at home to New Farnley tomorrow.

"I can see New Farnley winning it," admitted Nicholson, "while I do fear for East Bierley, but we can target matches against Bradford & Bingley, Scholes and East Bierley and hopefully push into mid-table.

"If Tahir, who we want to sign for next year too, gets 1,000 runs, we should be safe."

It is Nicholson's first season as captain and, although he would like to have contributed more with the bat, he does not put that down to being skipper.

He said: "I am enjoying it and haven't felt under pressure at all."

Pudsey St Lawrence (174 points), who are 12 points behind New Farnley, host Lightcliffe, while third-placed Hanging Heaton (168) are at sixth-placed Woodlands (148) in what could be the match of the day.

Bradford & Bingley are at home to Methley (150), who are fifth, while seventh-placed Townville (132) host Scholes.

Top match in Championship Division One pits fourth-placed Bankfoot at home to second-placed Wrenthorpe.