"Northern League" clubs are the ones to beat, says Pen skipper Ashley Billington
Penwortham skipper Ashley Billington admits he is not surprised to see Barrow and Penrith battling it out at the top of the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division.
The two former Northern League clubs – who were relegated in 2019 – look to be making a concerted effort to return at the first time of asking.
Penrith hit the top at the weekend after beating Eccleston, while Barrow are three points behind after crushing South Shore.
Sandwiched in between them are long-time leaders Vernon Carus, who suffered a shock defeat to Fylde on Saturday.
For their part, Penwortham lost ground on the promotion chasers after their game at home to Preston was cancelled because of the weather.
However, despite being down in sixth spot, Pen are still right in the mix at the top – just 18 points behind the leaders with nine games left to play.
At this stage of the season, it is certainly one of the tightest divisions at the top with Kirkham & Wesham and Thornton Cleveleys also with aspirations of promotion. But Billington admits that the clubs who have come down from the Northern League are always the sides to beat.
“I would say a couple of the key moments that we have let ourselves down this season have come against both Barrow and Penrith,” said Billington, who takes his team to Eccleston this weekend.
“In those games we were pretty much out of it straight away. You can’t win a game in 10 overs but you can certainly lose it and we did that.
“Against Barrow, we were 29-6, chasing 200 and then against Penrith, we were nought for two in the first over.
“The only thing we can do is concentrate on winning each game and not looking too far ahead.
“Historically over the last three seasons, we have been better over the course of the second half of the season so if we can continue that then you just never know.
“It’s just good to be one of the teams in the mix to be fair as opposed to a relegation dogfight which we were in during the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
“Quite a lot of things have come together this season but there is still a long way to go for us – in a good way.
“I still feel like there is scope for a lot more to come from us.
“It certainly helps the performance levels though when we are looking up rather than down.
“You have the worries of wondering if you’re going to be playing in the same division next season or the one below. Whereas this year, we are looking at striving to get in the Northern League, which is a lot better place to be.”
MOORE and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division: Croston v Barrow, Eccleston v Penwortham, Fylde v Great Eccleston, Kirkham & Wesham v Penrith, Preston v Thornton Cleveleys, South Shore v Vernon Carus.
Support us and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news, the latest football stories and new puzzles every day. With a digital subscription, you can see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.