Tough at the top for title hopefuls

F&B skipper Mark Smith knows his men will be crowned champions with victory in their final two games

F&B skipper Mark Smith knows his men will be crowned champions with victory in their final two games

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The stage is set for a dramatic and nailbiting finale to the cricketing summer.

This weekend sees the penultimate round of matches take place in both the Northern League Division One and the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division.

And the destiny of both title races have yet to be decided.

However, all that could change after this weekend – although the strong likelihood is that both races will go right down to the wire.

Both of the championship protagonists in the Northern League could theoretically clinch glory this weekend.

Leyland currently lead the way, 11 points clear of second-placed Blackpool, and they will know that victory over Penrith at Fox Lane tomorrow could see them claim the title.

But for that to happen, they would need Paul Danson’s men to lose at Lune Road against Lancaster tomorrow and also slip up in their game in hand at home to Barrow on Sunday.

Should the reverse of those results happen, then it could be Blackpool lifting the trophy in front of their home fans in a couple of days’ time.

While that scenario sounds dramatic enough, there is the strong possibility that the championship will not be decided this weekend and the two teams will be primed to face each other in a tense final-day title decider at Stanley Park a week tomorrow.

Bonus points could also play a factor in the remaining few days of the season and interestingly third-placed Fleetwood still have an outside chance of overhauling the top two, although it would take an unusual and surprising sequence of results for that to happen.

If it is tense at the top in the Northern League, the same could be said for the Palace Shield Premier Division.

With just two games of the season left, leaders Fulwood and Broughton are on the cusp of being crowned champions for the first time since 2005.

After a barren few years, Mark Smith’s men have enjoyed a memorable campaign so far, winning 16 and losing only two games all season.

However, they are being chased hard by perennial title challengers Vernon Carus, who are looking to finish on top for the seventh time in the last 10 attempts.

They trail F&B by 11 points and both teams face tough assignments this weekend.

F&B host third-placed Longridge at Highfield, while Vernons welcome Freckleton, who are currently in fifth spot, to Factory Lane.

If Vernons lose tomorrow then F&B will seal the title with victory over the men from Chipping Road.

However, it could all come down to the final weekend when F&B visit Freckleton and Vernons head to fourth-placed Garstang – a match which will take place at Netherfield CC due to recent flood damage to the Riversiders’ ground.

FIXTURES

NORTHERN PREMIER LEAGUE: Barrow v Kendal, Darwen v Chorley, Lancaster v Blackpool, Leyland v Penrith, Netherfield v Preston, St Annes v Fleetwood, Morecambe – no game.

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