Chorley, Preston and Leyland are all set for the start of what will be an historic season in the Northern Cricket League.
The new campaign gets under way tomorrow with every club all too aware that a poor season could seriously threaten their status as a Division One club.
After a recent league merger agreement, clubs finishing in the bottom two could find themselves relegated to the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division.
Teams who finish in the top two of the Palace Shield will have the option of taking their place and moving into the Northern League.
Chorley chairman Peter Mockett is in favour of the new format even if it does add a little extra pressure on the shoulders of his captain Andy Holdsworth ahead of this weekend’s game against Fleetwood at Windsor Park.
“It’s going to make it very interesting,” said Mockett.
“As far as we are concerrned it’s a move forward and progress.
“We have been pressing the league for some time to introduce a mini pyramid system of promotion and relegation.
“It will certainly add some spice to the competition.”
After signing highly-rated Sri Lankan batsman Gayan Maneeshan as professional, Mockett is hopeful that the focus for Chorley will be the top end of the table, although there will be no complaints from him if they get involved in a dog fight at the bottom.
“Once you are involved in a competition, you can’t start bending the rules your way if you have bad season,” he said.
“But hopefully we will have a good season. Our pro has arrived – he’s a quality batsman and I think he’s just what we need.”
Chorley are also in action on Sunday in the ECB National Knockout competition at home to Lostock. Leyland are also in action against Ormskirk at Fox Lane.
Fulwood and Broughton start the defence of their Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier League title with a home game against Great Eccleston.
The Highfield club won the league last season for the first time since 2005.
It is a busy start for F&B, with them playing against Blackpool on Sunday in the ECB National Knockout.
Garstang, runners-up last season, start the campaign with a visit from Freckleton to the Riverside.
The newcomers to the top flight this term are Eccleston and Rufford.
Eccleston start against Torrisholme at Doctor’s Lane, while Rufford have a tough test at Longridge.
On Sunday, Longridge are in National Knockout action against Westhoughton.
It was a competition which Kyle Helm’s men reached the last 16 of last summer.
NORTHERN PREMIER LEAGUE: Chorley v Fleetwood, Leyland v Penrith, Morecambe v Barrow, Netherfield v Blackpool, Preston v Kendal, St Annes v Lancaster
PALACE SHIELD PREMIER DIVISION: Eccleston v Torrisholme, Fulwood and Broughton v Great Eccleston, Garstang v Freckleton, Longridge v Rufford, Penwortham v Thornton Cleveleys, Vernon Carus v Croston