Toppling Vernons is Walling’s dream

Michael Walling
Michael Walling
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Finishing above the ‘Manchester United’ of the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division is the dream of Garstang skipper Michael Walling.

Having won the title five times out of the last seven years – including last summer – Vernon Carus are certainly the team to beat.

Walling would dearly like to break Vernon’s stranglehold on the shield and judging by his club’s start to the new season, they look poised to challenge at the top of the table.

They have collected victories in each of their opening two games – against Thornton Cleveleys and Withnell Fold – to be one of four teams to boast a 100% record so far.

Ominously, Vernons have also registered two victories – along with Longridge and Great Eccleston – and Walling believes that any team which finishes above the reigning champions this season will win the title.

“Vernons are like the Manchester United of the league,” Walling conceded.

“If you finish above them, you will be doing well.

“They are the team to beat – they’ve not made any changes from last year.

“They know each other and have been together for a long time – they’re just a good 
all-round team.

“I think it’s every captain’s dream to win the league but I won’t be looking that far ahead.

“We’ve won two games, that’s all – it could soon change at the weekend.

!In two weeks’ time I could be talking again and we’ve had two defeats.”

Despite his level-headedness, Walling – whose side travel to Fylde tomorrow – has been thrilled with the way his men have gone about their business in the first few weeks of the season.

He has pointed to a couple of new additions as one of the main reasons why his men have begun so confidently.

Seam bowler Gareth Jennings has rejoined the club after a spell at Longridge, while opening batsman Andrew Fletcher has signed from Northern League outfit Lancaster.

“We have started quite well,” Walling said.

“The lads have put some hard work in over the year since last season and throughout this winter.

“We’ve signed two new players – Gareth and Andrew – who have come in and done well. They have given us a bit more strength in depth.

“We’ve had two good performances with the ball in our first two matches.

“It’s been good but we’re not going to get too carried away.”

Garstang have been a team who have flirted near the top of the table at times in recent seasons but they have always failed to maintain their challenge on a consistent basis.

But Walling insists his team have the ability to mount a serious title challenge.

“Most teams in the division would say they have got a chance,” he said.

“I think there are five or six teams at the start of the season who think they have got a good chance of doing well. But we are not thinking about that now.

“If we keep winning, we will be up there no doubt and if we are still up there with four or five games to go, you can start thinking about winning the league.

One of those 100% record will end this weekend as Vernons face Longridge away.

Meanwhile, Preston face a difficult task this weekend as they look to open their Northern League win account.

The men from West Cliff have yet to emerge victorious this season after the opening two rounds of matches.

And they will have their work cut out tomorrow when they host last year’s runners-up Barrow.

The Cumbrians collected two successive wins last weekend when they emphatically swept aside Chorley by 73 runs, before easing past Lancashire Colts by a similar margin on Sunday.

Preston, who finished rock bottom of the division last year after picking up just one win all summer, appear destined for another season battling to stay away from the basement.

They were well beaten by Chorley on the opening day of the season but showed signs of improvement last weekend against Kendal before eventually losing by three wickets. Elsewhere, reigning champions Leyland, who take on league new boys Penrith at Fox Lane tomorrow, have begun the season in fine style.

They were one wicket away from securing an outright win over Barrow on the opening day, and were emphatic seven-wicket victors over Blackpool last weekend.

Chorley will be hoping to get back to winning ways after their loss to Barrow when they entertain Blackpool at Windsor Park.

TOMORROW’S FIXTURES

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

PALACE SHIELD PREMIER DIVISION: BAC/EE v Freckleton, Fulwood and Broughton v Whittingham and Goosnargh, Fylde v Garstang, Great Eccleston v Penwortham, Longridge v Vernon Carus, Withnell Fold v Thornton Cleveleys.