Cricket preview: Hard work ahead for Northern League title-chasing Garstang while Palace Shield promotion race boils up

Punit Bisht helped Garstang to victory against Kendal (photo: Tim Gilbert/Preston Photographic Society)
Punit Bisht helped Garstang to victory against Kendal (photo: Tim Gilbert/Preston Photographic Society)

Garstang skipper Mark Walling has warned his players to expect tough matches between now and the end of the season.

With five games of the Northern Premier Cricket League season remaining, Garstang sit second in the table and are also in the last eight of the Berrys Beds 40-Over Cup.

They had been due to host Leyland in a top-of-the-table match last weekend, only for Saturday’s wet weather to see the game abandoned.

Twenty-four hours later, however, and they were victorious in the cup, beating Kendal in a reduced-overs game by 34 runs.

“Saturday was a bit frustrating really,” Walling said.

“It was just one of those days full of showers. We did the mopping up, getting the ground right, and then there’d be a shower which just pushed everything back.

“Then, at 3.30pm, the heavens opened, the rain was ridiculously heavy and we knew that was it for the day.

“Sunday was a really good performance in a rain-affected game but, while it was disappointing not to play both days, we can’t control the weather.”

Garstang are due to be in league and cup action this weekend with a trip to Chorley on Saturday followed by their cup quarter-final with Fulwood and Broughton.

The first meeting with Chorley was a rain-affected winning draw in Garstang’s favour at the start of June, while Fulwood and Broughton have always proved difficult opponents.

“There are only five league games to go, so we’re at the business end of the season,” Walling said.

“Each game is going to be competitive so we have to turn up and do what we’ve been doing all season.”

All eyes will be on the clouds this weekend in the hope of some play in the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield.

All six Premier Division matches were washed out last Saturday, two of them starting but abandoned in the first innings.

So it is ‘as you were’ in the top flight with just five rounds of games remaining before the curtain comes down on the season on September 14.

Lancaster look on course for a return to the Northern League, with Ben Simm’s men 26 points clear at the summit and 31 ahead of third place.

It is top versus bottom at Lune Road tomorrow with Lancaster hosting Fylde.

Morecambe, in second, are on their travels as they visit Great Eccleston.

Third-placed Croston are strongly in contention for a promotion place.

They trail Morecambe by just five points and it has been a strong season for the men from Westhead Road.

For Croston, this is a key weekend in both league and cup action.

Tomorrow they make the trip to West Cliff to take on Preston who have slipped off the promotion trail over the last few weeks.

On Sunday, Croston face Thornton Cleveleys in the Meyler Cup final.

They are hosting the final, their ground chosen before the start of the season.

Wickets are pitched for the final at 1.30pm.

If Croston can emerge from the weekend with two wins, what a shot in the arm that would be for the club.

The Meyler Cup is the third of the Palace Shield’s cup finals, following on from the Crabtree Cup and Loxham Cup.

Chorley second XI won the Loxham Cup last Sunday at BAC/EE Preston, beating Leyland by four wickets. Earlier in the month, the Crabtree Cup was lifted by Penwortham who won against Longridge.

In the league tomorrow, fourth-placed Eccleston pay a visit to Factory Lane to face Vernon Carus.

Eccleston could yet play a part in the promotion race, with them facing Morecambe on August 24 and Croston on the final day.

The Doctor’s Lane outfit should not be ruled out of a push for the top two although they have ground to make up.

New Longton go to South Shore tomorrow, while there is a key game at the bottom end of the table.

Penwortham, in 10th spot, head down the M6 to tackle Standish, who are six points below them.

A fortnight ago, Penwortham beat Eccleston to give their hopes of avoiding a bottom-two finish a big boost.

Amid the downpours last week, they actually managed to get some time on the pitch against neighbours Vernon Carus.

Somehow they got 31 overs in at Middleforth, making 136-6 – Sam Ryding hit 44 – before heavy rain forced an abandonment.

WEEKEND FIXTURES

NORTHERN LEAGUE DIVISION ONE: Chorley v Garstang, Fulwood and Broughton 
v Barrow, Kendal v 
Longridge, Leyland v Netherfield, Penrith v 
Blackpool, St Annes v Fleetwood.

MOORE & SMALLEY PALACE SHIELD PREMIER DIVISION: Great Eccleston v Morecambe, Lancaster v 
Fylde, Preston v Croston, 
South Shore v New Longton, Standish v Penwortham, Vernon Carus v Eccleston.