Arch-rivals on path to last-day collision

Vernon Carus skipper Paul Chapman Jr is aiming to lead his side to a third successive Palace Shield league title when the new season gets under way in April
Vernon Carus skipper Paul Chapman Jr is aiming to lead his side to a third successive Palace Shield league title when the new season gets under way in April
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The script has been written for a potentially mouth-watering finale to the 2014 Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division cricket season.

Champions Vernon Carus travel to arch rivals Penwortham on the final day of the season for what could be a blockbuster title decider.

Vernons, who are skippered by Paul Chapman Junior, are chasing history this year as they bid to become only the third team in more than half-a-century to win three successive league titles.

However, Penwortham – double winners in 2011 – will be aiming to wrest the league title back from their near neighbours after finishing in runners-up position last year.

Despite last season’s top two starting the forthcoming campaign as heavy favourites for the league’s biggest prizes, they will be not underestimate a number of other clubs who have the potential to muscle in on the honours this season.

Freckleton’s temperament for the big occasion has been proven by successive Meyler Cup victories – including a fine win over Penwortham in last season’s final – and they also finished third in 2013.

Great Eccleston – who last won the league title in 2008 and finished second in 2012 – are always a tough team to beat, while clubs such as Fulwood and Broughton, Garstang and Longridge will be keen to make their mark this year.

Whittingham and Goosnargh return to the top flight after spending a season away, while Withnell Fold deservedly take their place in the Premier Division after two successive promotions.

The season begins on Easter Saturday, April 19, with Vernons opening their title defence against Whittingham at Factory Lane.

Penwortham have an early opportunity to avenge their Meyler Cup final defeat when they travel to Bush Lane to take on Freckleton.

Withnell host Fylde in their first match and Great Eccleston visit BAC/EE Preston. Longridge and Thornton Cleveleys host F&B and Garstang respectively.

The league has also welcomed the addition of two brand new clubs.

Rufford have joined from the Southport and District League and will take their place in the Second Division, while Wyre have joined from the Fylde League and will play in the Sixth Division.

Meanwhile, First Division outfit Mawdesley are preparing themselves for the grand unveiling of their new pavilion.

Players, ex-players, officials and fans of the club raised more than £23,000 to help with the cost of the new facility, alongside various grants from Sport England and the England and Wales Cricket Trust. Work began on the on the pavilion after the old one was demolished at the end of last season.

It was due to be completed by the end of last month.