Top two ready for crucial title clash

Garstang's Michael Walling was among the runs against Vernon Carus
Garstang's Michael Walling was among the runs against Vernon Carus
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Top faces second this weekend as the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division season reaches its halfway stage.

Leaders and perennial title chasers Vernon Carus host Garstang at Factory Lane in what is sure to be an eagerly-contested match.

A win for the visitors could see them move to the top of the table but Mark Walling’s men will know they face a difficult task against a team which has dominated the Premier Division over the past decade.

Last season, Vernons endured their worst finish since the inception of the top division in its present format.

They finished just above mid-table – the first time the club has finished outside of the top two since before 2007.

However, this season they are looking strong once more and will be viewed as favourites to win their fourth title in five years.

They are currently eight points clear of Garstang, who will be hoping to make up for last season when they finished second after looking primed to win the title.

They will be buoyed by their midweek success over Vernons in the Twenty20 competition at the Riverside.

Knocks of 37 and 46 from Michael Walling and Matt Crowther respectively helped them build a score of 154-5.

Then three wickets for just 20 runs from Steven Booker restricted Vernons to 89-9 in reply.

Meanwhile, in the Northern League, Preston will be hoping to make further inroads up the Division One table when they travel to Lune Road to take on Lancaster.

The West Cliff outfit are just below mid-table after securing a winning draw over Darwen at the weekend. It is all a far cry from last season when the club finished rock bottom having failed to pick up a single victory all season.

They ended up with just 24 points – a massive 89 points behind Kendal, who finished one place above them.

However, after bolstering their squad with the additions of players like Lukman Vahaluwala and Saeed Bariwala, the club has already tripled last season’s points tally during this campaign.

They will be hopeful of registering more points this weekend against side 
who are below them in the table.

Veteran bowler Andrew Starkie said: “I think Lancaster are a good side.

“Obviously they have Ben Simm, who is always a threat and it’s always a difficult game against them.

“I think it’s been a while since we have beaten them in the league so it will be nice if we can do that.

“Hopefully the weather will be all right this weekend and we can go there and get a win, which could push us up the table even more.”

Meanwhile, Leyland and Longridge will hope the weather does not intervene for a third time in their 
ECB National Knockout regional final on Sunday at Fox Lane.

NORTHERN PREMIER LEAGUE: Barrow v Blackpool, Darwen v Penrith, Kendal v Morecambe, Lancaster v Preston, Leyland v Fleetwood, St Annes v Netherfield.

PALACE SHIELD PREMIER DIVISION: Fulwood and Broughton v Freckleton, Fylde v Whittingham and Goosnargh, Penwortham v Great Eccleston, Thornton Cleveleys v Longridge, Torrisholme v Croston, Vernon Carus v Garstang