Title challengers set for crucial weekend

Mark Walling
Mark Walling
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Garstang CC skipper Mark Walling is taking it one game at a time as they prepare for a potentially season-defining fortnight.

Victory over Vernon Carus last Saturday, coupled with results elsewhere, took Garstang to the top of the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division with six games remaining.

The first of those comes this Saturday at the Riverside where Walling’s men welcome second-placed Fulwood and Broughton.

Fast forward seven days and they then meet third-placed Longridge, 24 hours before the Meyler Cup final against Vernons.

“We can’t look too far ahead; if anything we can’t look past this Saturday,” Walling said.

“It’s an old cliche but we have to take the season one game at a time – but at least it’s in our hands.

“It’s going to be a good weekend with ourselves playing Fulwood and Longridge up against Vernons, who are fourth.

“It will be interesting to see where everyone is on Monday morning but we’re at home and we always back ourselves at home.

“Longridge losing to Penwortham last weekend was a bit surprising but Penwortham have some good players as we found out when they nearly beat us earlier in the season.”

Victory over Vernons last time out was one for the Walling family to enjoy.

Mark and Michael put on a stand of 100 in Garstang’s 190, aided by Ian Walling’s late 40 before he took four wickets in dismissing Vernons for 109.

“Michael and myself must have batted pretty well but Ian’s innings swung the momentum in our direction,” the captain said.

“A score of around 150 or 160 was par but Ian got us to 190 which made us think they would have to bat well to win the game because we have a good bowling attack and we got early wickets.”

Meanwhile Longridge captain Kyle Helm believes the title chase is now entering its decisive phase.

“It’s a big weekend given the results from last Saturday,” Helm said.

“In our eyes, we could do with a win for ourselves and Garstang beating Fulwood, so then it would be down to us to beat Garstang the week after.

“We can’t get ahead of ourselves though because Saturday is a massive game for both us and Vernons especially after they lost to Garstang.

“That was a shock because they were at full strength but they’re at home on Saturday and they’re quite strong when they’re at home.

“These next two weekends will give everyone a clearer idea of who is going to be up there at the end of the season.”

Longridge will be looking to bounce back after their 35-run loss against Penwortham.

Missing a handful of regular first XI performers, Helm’s players were shot out for 92 when chasing their opponents’ 127-8.

As Helm admitted, his side paid the price for failing to dismiss Martin Hewitt, who struck an unbeaten 66, as well as an poor batting display.

“He batted really well and got himself into a position where he could do his hitting in the last three overs,” Helm said of Hewitt.

“However, I’d have expected us to bat out our overs at least and, if we had, we’d have won that game.”

Tomorrow’s fixtures:

Northern League Division One: Barrow v Leyland, Blackpool v Preston, Fleetwood v Penrith, Lancaster v Kendal, Morecambe v St Annes, Netherfield v Chorley

Palace shield PrEmier Division: Croston v Rufford, Freckleton v Great Eccleston, Garstang v Fulwood and Broughton, Penwortham v Eccleston, Thornton Cleveleys v Torrisholme, Vernon Carus v Longridge.