Weekend cricket previews
Garstang skipper Mark Walling is refusing to let his mind wander to thoughts of lifting the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division trophy.
The Riversiders have the league title within their grasp with just two games of the season left to play.
Boasting a nine-point cushion over second-placed Fulwood and Broughton – who are the defending champions – Walling is all too aware that he and his players could be celebrating come Saturday night.
Should Garstang collect a maximum points haul at home against Great Eccleston tomorrow, and F&B lose at Highfield to already-relegated Freckleton, then they will be crowned Premier Division champions the first time in their history.
However a defeat for Walling’s men could see F&B leapfrog them and into pole position as they head into the final weekend.
In a further twist to the tale, third-placed Vernon Carus still have an outside chance of overhauling the current top two if results go their way.
Walling said: “It’s obviously there – we’re getting closer to the league title with two weeks of the season to go.
“But I don’t think we can afford to take our eyes off the next game. I know it’s a cliche but we’re just taking each game as it comes .
“Our focus is Saturday and Great Eccleston and then we’ll see what position we are in after the game and take it from there.”
Walling has been impressed with the way his side have coped with the pressure of being leaders in recent weeks.
“It’s good to be part of it all at the top,” he said. “I would much rather be in this position than be in mid-table with nothing to play for.”
Leyland will go in search of silverware on Sunday – hoping the weather does not ruin their Benchmarx Joiner and Kitchens Cup final for a second time.
David Makinson men’s were due to face Barrow in the final of the prestigious competition at Fox Lane last weekend, but incessant rain prevented a ball being bowled.
The weather forecast does not look too great for this weekend, but Leyland will be hoping that the rain holds off to give them enough time to beat Barrow and end the season on a high.
“It’s the main cup competition for the Northern League,” said skipper Makinson. “So it will be nice if we can win it.
“You’ve got the T20 Cup, which is a good competition to win, but this one is the longer format – 40 overs a side – so it’s the one that everybody wants to win...that and the league title.”
Should Leyland emerge victorious against Barrow, Makinson said it will represent a decent season for the club. There is still a chance that they can finish in runners-up spot in the league behind champions Netherfield, although they will need to beat Penrith away tomorrow on the final day of the league campaign and hope St Annes lose at relegation threatened Lancaster.
“Our aim has been to get runners-up spot, but St Annes keep winning unfortunately,” said Makinson. “But if we can win the cup on Sunday and get second in the league – we finished runners-up in the T20 Cup – it will have been a decent season.”
Leyland are hoping to call upon Luis Reece once again as their sub-pro in place of Pabasara Waduge, who has returned to Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, the battle to beat the drop from the Northern League will be decided tomorrow.
For the first time, the two teams finishing in the bottom two at the end of the season face being replaced by the champions and runners-up of the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division.
Three teams are in danger of the drop with bottom side Lancaster in the most perilous position. They need to win against St Annes and hope other results go their way.
Morecambe secured their safety with victory over second-bottom Kendal last week and can do Lancaster another favour this weekend when they visit Barrow, also in danger of dropping out of the league.
Kendal host Preston at Shap Road in the other final-day game of interest to Lancaster.
Interestingly, the teams finishing in the bottom two could receive a stay of execution as the top two in the Palace Shield can choose to be promoted or not, so there will be plenty still up in the air even at the end of play on Saturday.
Northern League Division One: Barrow v Morecambe, Blackpool v Netherfield, Fleetwood v Chorley, Kendal v Preston, Lancaster v St Annes, Penrith v Leyland.
Palace Shield Premier Division: Croston v Garstang, Freckleton v Longridge, Great Eccleston v Penwortham, Rufford v Vernon Carus, Thornton Cleveleys v Eccleston, Torrisholme v Fulwood and Broughton.