Kirk Deighton captain Rich Ward feels his side can cope with the favourite’s tag as they continue to dominate the Wetherby League.
Deighton have only tasted defeat once in their opening nine matches this season, and extended their stay at the top of the table with a thrilling victory over neighbours and rivals Wetherby at the weekend.
After a disappointing campaign in the top tier last summer, the Mark Lane club have transformed their fortunes and are now in prime position to win the league title for a first time.
With the weight of history on his side’s shoulders, Ward backed his players to deal with the pressure over the next three months.
On carrying the favourite’s tag, he said: “We are probably playing it down a bit.
“There are still some very good sides out there and anybody can beat any other on their day. We have just got to keep it rolling and see where we are in a few weeks time.”
Ward’s four wickets played a key role in the win at Grange Park, however, it was leading wicket-taker Mark Harland who stole the show.
The right-arm off spinner took figures of 6-21 to make use of the wet deck and bowl flailing Wetherby out for just 67 – leaving the reigning champions 37 runs short of victory.
Kirk’s strong run of form had been under threat after Adam Wilkinson had reduced them to 80-8, before Jonty Smith smacked 23 crucial runs from number 10.
“Obviously, with it being a local derby, it’s a win that means a lot,” said Ward.
“We get on with them but it’s always nice to win that one. It’s the game everyone looks forward to.
“It was just a really good all-round performance.
“The lower order came in and stuck around on a wet deck, which was good to see as many of them haven’t had much batting yet this season.
“We were probably looking for 150 but we always felt we were in the game with the way we have been playing.
“Thankfully we got off to a good start with the ball and kept it going.”
The skipper credited the arrivals of early season recruits Ross Atkinson, Richard Gomersall and Jamie Crooks as a big part of turning morale around.
But, it has been Harland’s form that has been pivotal to the early run of victories, and Ward singled out the spinner
“He’s the league’s leading wicket taker and he’s going really well at the minute,” Ward added. “We have been able to bowl well in partnerships, build pressure and tie the batsmen down. That has allowed Mark to get the batsman to go for their shots, which has helped him take wickets.”