Top two set for a titanic title tussle

Freckleton skipper Andrew Hogarth

Freckleton skipper Andrew Hogarth

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The top two in the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division go head to head on Saturday for a huge title clash.

Leaders Freckleton host second placed Longridge at Bush Lane with just one point separating the pair.

In a further twist to the tale, Great Eccleston are just one point further back in third, while fourth-placed Garstang can put themselves back in contention with victory over Penwortham at the Riverside.

Garstang were the previous leaders but they plummeted down to fourth spot – nine points off the top – after being well beaten by Freckleton on Saturday.

Freck are certainly the form side at the moment and the title is in their hands – but only just.

Andrew Hogarth’s men have won eight of their last 10 games, suffering just the one loss in that time to Fulwood and Broughton.

They will have their work cut out though against Ian Simpson’s Longridge team. They are also in a rich vein of form, winning their last five matches.

Meanwhile, Garstang skipper Ian Walling bemoaned his side’s display against Freckleton and said his team must now beat Penwortham to have any chance of lifting the title

“We have to beat Penwortham if we want to have any chance of winning the league,” he said. “We didn’t play well enough – we were outplayed by a good Freckleton side.

“They bowled very well, I won the toss and batted. In hindsight we probably should have bowled first. The wicket was doing quite a bit with the new ball, but what we can’t do is lose six wickets for five runs.

“I think we needed to get forward and try and counter the seaming ball.”

While the league title is looking increasingly out of reach for Garstang with four games to go, they do have the opportunity to win some silverware on Sunday.

As defending champions, they will be gunning for glory in the Twenty20 finals day, which is being held at Great Eccleston’s Hall Lane ground.

Leyland face Fulwood and Broughton in the first semi-final at 11am and then Garstang take on Great Ecc in second one at 1pm

“Sunday is finals day – we are looking to win it for a third time in a row. We’ll have a near full-strength team…we take the competition seriously and we want to bring home some silverware,” he added.

Meanwhile, in the Northern League, Morecambe can put one hand on the Division One title with victory over Leyland at Woodhill Lane.

Josh Dixon’s men are 14 points clear of second-placed Darwen, who played third-placed Blackpool – the reigning champions – at Stanley Park.

Chorley will look to move back above neighbours in the table when they play Barrow at Windsor Park.

Preston will have no chance of registering their first win of the season – they are without a game this weekend.

Fixtures

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

PALACE SHIELD PREMIER DIVISION: Croston v BAC/EE Preston, Freckleton v Longridge, Fulwood and Broughton v Hoghton, Fylde v Vernon Carus, Garstang v Penwortham, Great Eccleston v Thornton Cleveleys.