As Fox Lodge captain Jason Milligan seeks inspiration for his team’s unlikely bid for North West Premiership survival, he doesn’t have to cast his mind back too far.
Just a year ago the club’s neighbours Bready were in a similarly desperate position, cut off from the rest of the division and seemingly bound for the Championship.
David Scanlon’s team went on a remarkable winning run, with their scalps including eventual league champions Coleraine as they secured survival in an end-of-season play-off.
If anything, Fox Lodge’s plight this season appears even more desperate. They have lost seven consecutive league matches and Milligan, the North West Warriors batsman, has recently replaced Iftikhar Hussain as captain.
Milligan has made a promising start in the role, not letting the distractions of the captaincy affect his batting as he made a superb century in defeat to Strabane last Saturday.
“It’s been a tough season to say the least,” he said. “It’s hard to pinpoint where exactly it has gone wrong, it’s been up and down all season.
“We haven’t got going in all areas of our game at the same time and it’s frustrating because I know the boys are more than capable.
“We’ve got another big game coming up at Brigade on Saturday and hopefully everything will click into gear.”
No-one, least of all Milligan himself, expected the Foxies to struggle in quite such dramatic fashion.
He admits that the departure of captain and the North West’s leading wicket-taker from last season, Johnny Robinson, was a blow, but in professional Tabish Khan, the Ballymagorry club recruited a leading first-class bowler.
Fox Lodge need a victory as quickly as possible and as Milligan points out, just getting their first points on the board will have a galvanising impact.
“I have been telling the boys about what happened to Bready last year,” he said. “If you can get one win under your belt it can lift the confidence from 0 per cent to 100 per cent. We have been getting platforms in games but not capitalising. On Saturday against Strabane we were 150 or 160 for one but only ended up getting 220. We knew we were 30 or 40 short.”
Milligan (25) has never captained a team before, at any level, but while the list of skippers whose batting or bowling has suffered with the responsibility of leadership in cricket is a long one, he is determined he won’t be the latest victim.
“Captaincy is all new to me, I’m just used to arriving at the ground without thinking too much, it’s a learning experience and I’m enjoying it,” he added. “I’m not going to be laid-back about it but I won’t be taking myself too seriously.
“I haven’t found it too hard so far. It’s different in that you have to think about the toss and setting fields, but nothing will take the pressure off more than getting a few results. I want the lads to play with a smile on their face. We know we need results and I want them to believe in themselves.”
Joint leaders Strabane travel to Eglinton on Saturday fresh from a first defeat of the league season.
Coleraine are at home to Ardmore, while cup finalists Donemana, who have already suffered four league defeats, travel to Magheramason to face Bready.