Premier Division Preview - 18th February 2017

Fri 17th February 2017 | General
By Gary Langley

As the Battle for the single promotion spot intensifies there is never a dull moment as almost week in-Week out there is another twist in the promotion race.

Last Monday saw battles all over the place as Atherton Collieries stole a match on one of their major title rivals by defeating fellow title chasers Bootle in the latest promotion head to head. Even now it's still one from four or five and it's a brace observer who calls it at this point.

On to this weekends action which sees a number of contenders attempt to enhance their promotion credentials. Arguably the biggest game of the weekend sees Atherton Collieries face 1874 Northwich at the Kensite Arena. 1874 Northwich are in decent form and go into the game unbeaten in their last five league games whilst Colls' are unbeaten in their last sixteen. You have to go back to late September for their last league defeat which was away at Runcorn Linnets.

Speaking of Linnets' they will be looking to put a couple of weeks of evolution behind the scenes at the club behind them as they travel to Ashton Athletic. Ashton's for has been erratic to say the least at times but they are normally pretty decent at home as much as Runcorn are on the road.

Linnets midweek draw at Winsford was their second stalemate in three games and despite still being on fourth spot they have a challenge ahead if they are to nip in and pinch the title as they're five points behind the leaders but have played more games than the other challengers.

Neighbours, Runcorn Town are two points behind Linnets but have four games in hand on them and three on leaders Bootle. They travel to Little Wembley to face Nelson and will be happy just to be playing, Manager Chris Herbert was vocal in the local press last week mentioning his teams frustration at games being postponed for one reason or another. The fact that they've only played three times this calendar year arguably backs that up. Nelson have only one win in their last sixteen league games and are currently ten points adrift of safety so if they are to make a surge for survival now would be a good time to do it.

AFC Liverpool host Winsford United at the Marine Travel Arena and their supporters have been the example of optimism on social media this week ever upbeat about their chances in the league. They maybe too far off the pace in my opinion at the moment but they have been playing some good football this season. Two wins in their last seven suggests they will be looking for improvement this week. Winsford are unbeaten in their last seven league games, a run which started back on 19th December when they beat AFC Liverpool no less.

Cammell Laird host Padiham at Kirklands still looking to end their rotten run of results without a league win. They will have been buoyed by last weeks 1-1 draw at Ashton Athletic but 19 points off safety even the most optimistic of Lairds fans are by now likely resigned to their fate. Still pride to play for but they face a tough task this weekend. By Padiham recent standards they are in a bit of a lull, they're without a win in their last three including two defeats on the spin. They still stand sixth in the table though which is no meant feat in a very strong Premier Division this season.

Not much seperates Maine Road or Irlam that includes distance and league points, indeed Maine Road lead Irlam by only a couple of points as they face off at Brantingham Road.  Both of these clubs are in intermittent form at the moment and this is the first of a double header for these two clubs as the fixture is reversed next weekend.

Congleton Town are on a good run at the moment, one defeat in their last four is their best run of form since August which has seen them comfortably in mid-table and looking confidently upwards. Barnoldswick are the visitors and with only two league wins since the back end of September are looking the other direction, they will be keen to secure their premier Division Status being thirteen points ahead of the drop zone, arguably safe already but three points in this should go a long way to helping their cause.

Two other sides in that same category are argucanly Barnton and Squires Gate who meet at the Hinchliffe Homes Stadium.  Their playing and points record is identical, both having amassed 33 points in their 31 games which should be far enough away from trouble to see them through safely.  This looks a decent game for the neutral though as both clubs know where the net is and can both play some top notch football on their day.

So there you have the preview of this weekend's games, lots to play for at both ends of the table and some really tough games, especially between teams who aren't too far away from each other in the table.  With a busy couple of weeks ahead, seasons could be made or lost for some at this peak period.