Northern League and Palace Shield previews: Top two get set for head-to-head battle

Garstang CC skipper Mark Walling (Picture: Tim Gilbert/Preston Photographic Society)
Garstang CC skipper Mark Walling (Picture: Tim Gilbert/Preston Photographic Society)

Garstang skipper Mark Walling doesn’t believe the Northern Premier League title will be won or lost this weekend.

Saturday brings a top-of-the-table encounter with second-placed Garstang welcoming leaders Leyland to The Riverside.

Victories for both sides last weekend kept Leyland five points clear at the top with half-a-dozen games left.

The two teams have been the stand-out sides in this year’s competition with Leyland having only lost once and Garstang twice.

Walling said: “It’s first against second and there’s going to be a lot of attention on it.

“It’s two really strong teams playing each other – we know a lot about them and they know a lot about us, so it’s set up to be a fantastic game. We’re really looking forward to it. We’re playing at home and we have a good home record in the last couple of years.”

Leyland’s opening 
bowlers, Ross Bretherton and Karl Cross, pose an obvious threat with 34 and 26 league wickets respectively this season.

They shared all 10 last weekend in Leyland’s win against Chorley but Walling is wary of focusing entirely on them.

“They do a lot of bowling but they have other good bowlers as well,” he said.

“They have quite a lot of depth, which is reflected in their league position.

“There are five points between us and, in the grand scheme of things, that isn’t a lot.

“If we get the 15 points on Saturday then we go above them but there’s still a lot of cricket to be played.

“Hopefully the work we’ve done over the last few years is going to come to fruition.”

A stand-out fixture in the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield is always the derby clash between Penwortham and Vernon Carus.

The neighbours meet at Middleforth tomorrow in what should be a keenly fought contest.

For hosts Penwortham, points are needed to put more distance between themselves and the bottom two.

They climbed out of the drop zone last Saturday with a fine victory over Eccelston, a side going well at the other end of the table.

A knock of 63 from Sam Ryding played a big part in the victory, skipper Ashley Billington and Maji Majdeep then taking three wickets apiece as Penwortham won by 29 runs.

Vernons are currently in seventh place, the mid-table rather congested, with just 12 points separating fourth and eighth places.

Last Sunday, there was more joy for Penwortham as the club’s third XI won the Crabtree Cup.

They dodged the showers to get the better of Longridge at Blackpool’s Stanley Park.

Longridge scored 110 when batting first, a target Penwortham successfully chased.

Opener Alex Ryding hit an unbeaten 52, this the fifth time Penwortham have won the Crabtree Cup.

Premier League leaders Lancaster face a stern test tomorrow when they make the trip to Eccleston who sit in fourth place.

Ben Simm’s men have a 26-point lead at the top as they aim to clinch promotion back to the Northern League.

Second-placed Morecambe host Preston at Woodhill Lane.

They slipped up last week, losing at South Shore and that allowed Croston to close the gap to just five points.

Croston have shown some strong form of late and they have a home game tomorrow against South Shore.

Winning that would keep the pressure on Morecambe with just five games left after this weekend.

Elsewhere in the top flight, New Longton play host to Great Eccleston at Chapel Lane.

There is a battle between the bottom two clubs, with Fylde welcoming Standish to Moorland Road.

Meanwhile, the Loxham Cup Final sees Leyland meet Chorley at BAC/EE Preston on Sunday.

FIXTURES

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

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