GARSTANG skipper Mark Walling is expecting a titanic tussle against derby rivals Longridge this weekend.
The Riversiders head to Chipping Road to take on their near neighbours knowing that more than just local bragging rights are at stake.
Both clubs have genuine title aspirations in the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division this season.
Garstang are in third spot in the table – just 11 points behind leaders Fulwood and Broughton, while Longridge are a place further back, 24 points shy of the summit.
At this stage of the season, both teams have ground to make up on F&B and second-placed Vernon Carus, but with seven games to go, there are still plenty of points left to play for.
A win for Garstang this weekend will significantly dent Longridge’s hopes of winning the league, but Walling knows his side face a huge task in getting the better of Kyle Helm’s men.
Walling told the Evening Post: “There are probably four teams still in the title race – I would say that’s probably about right.
“Ourselves, Fulwood and Broughton, Vernons and Longridge.
“It’s all pretty close and I think everybody is capable of beating each other this season, which makes it really interesting
“A win for us this weekend will widen the gap between ourselves and Longridge, but they are a very good team – it’s going to be a close game.
“We saw how well they did in the National Knockout competition so they are a very dangerous side. I think it will be a very good game this weekend.”
Garstang finished runners-up to Great Eccleston last season after leading the table for large parts. Walling believes the experience of last summer’s near-miss will stand his men in good stead during the final run-in.
“Apart from last year, I haven’t played for the past three years and in that time we have always been close at the top,” said Walling.
“We came close to winning it last year and I think we’re going to come close to winning it this year – hopefully we can.”
Garstang hit back from losing to in-form Freckleton a couple of weeks ago to register a fine win over Great Eccleston – the team which pipped them to the title last summer – on Saturday.
It was a win which was masterminded by Walling’s brother Michael, who stepped in to skipper the side after Mark was declared unfit.
“I missed last weekend’s game with a back spasm. I have been off work a couple of days this week, but I am hoping to be back for the game against Longridge,” he said.
Meanwhile, it’s derby day tomorrow in the Northern League as Preston look to build on their win over Morecambe on Saturday by getting the better of Chorley at West Cliff. Third-placed Leyland are without a game.”
NORTHERN PREMIER LEAGUE: Blackpool v Penrith, Fleetwood v Kendal, Lancaster v Barrow, Netherfield v Morecambe, Preston v Chorley, St Annes v Darwen, Leyland – no Game.
PALACE SHIELD PREMIER DIVISION: Croston v Great Eccleston, Fylde v Thornton Cleveleys, Longridge v Garstang, Penwortham v Fulwood and Broughton, Vernon Carus v Torrisholme, Whittingham and Goosnargh v Freckleton.