Division One Preview 22nd April 2017
Fri 21st April 2017 | General | By Stewart Taylor
First Division Preview – April 22nd.
league Management Committee Member and League Respect Officer Stewart Taylor casts his eye over a great looking weekend of action in the Hallmark Security League Division One.
As we head helter-skelter towards the end of the season there are still a good number of issues to be resolved in the First Division and some of those may well be sorted out on Saturday.
At any time of the season a match up between the top two in the league table always catches the eye but for this to happen as we enter the final furlong makes the match between Widnes and Charnock Richard even more interesting.
Widnes are on a stunning run of league form which has seen the club climb the table gradually over the last months to arrive in the automatic promotion position they hold right now. Only one league defeat since October of last year speaks volumes for the consistency of the side but, ironically or otherwise, that one defeat was against their visitors this afternoon.
Charnock Richard have had a tremendous first season the Hallmark Security League since their elevation from the West Lancashire League. Their current form is just as good as that of their opponents today and they come into this match with an enviable reputation for scoring plenty and conceding few – a winning combination if ever there was one.
With just one point between the two teams going into this match and with two further matches to play, the result will not be decisive in the race for the First Division title but three points for either side from this one will put that side in pole position.
Third in the table are Litherland REMYCA who make the trip to the New Sirs on Saturday to face Daisy Hill.
Remy have had a good season and it’s far from over yet. With more matches played than the clubs around them, Remy have had to watch from the sidelines as their nearest rivals gained points to close up at the top of the table. A fine win away at fellow promotion contenders Whitchurch Alport on Easter Monday secured at least a play off position but the objective will be to keep bringing home the three points to put pressure on the sides above them in the race for automatic promotion.
Daisy Hill will finish the season in mid table and, as such, it could be said that they have nothing to play for. Experience suggests that this is never the case when the whistle blows and we can expect nothing less than 100% effort from a side who will look to end their season in a positive way despite a midweek home defeat at the hands of Cheadle Town.
Another newcomer to the league who have certainly enjoyed their first ever taste of league football are City of Liverpool FC. Backed by excellent support both home and away, the Purps already have a place in both the Macron and Reusch Cup Finals with the former secured on Thursday night when they overcame a two goal deficit from the first leg with Chadderton to go through on penalties after extra time. In the League a play off place is in the bag and they still have an outside chance of an automatic promotion berth. Much depends upon other results and all they can do is to keep collecting three points. The home defeat to Cheadle Town on Easter Monday in front of a crowd of close to 700 will have hurt but the opportunity to get back to winning ways comes on Saturday when fellow league newcomers Prestwich Heys visit the Delta Taxi's Stadium.
Heys came into our league from the very competitive Manchester League and have brought much of the form of last season with them. Some shrewd player acquisitions has certainly helped the cause and although they lie just outside of the play off places all is not yet lost but their chances of taking the last play off place looks to be remote.
With a stunning transformation, both on and off the field, since last season, Whitchurch Alport are also secure in a play off position. They were in great form recently with the twin strike force of Simon Everall and Michael Blundell seemingly unstoppable. However, a 0-0 draw away at Bacup Borough last Saturday and a reverse at the hands of Litherland REMYCA on Easter Monday have knocked them back a bit. On Saturday it’s off to the seaside for the Shropshire side to take on AFC Blackpool at the Mechanics Ground in the first of three away matches to complete the league fixtures.
AFC Blackpool have enough points to secure their position in the First Division for next season although it has been something of a struggle. Wins have been hard to come by yet a series of drawn matches brought in what have proved to be valuable points. The Mechanics will feature strongly in the last matches of the season as they welcome promotion and, possibly, play off contenders to the ground in the last week of the season.
The final play off place is currently in the hands of another league newcomer in the shape of Sandbach United but it is not yet secure. April’s form has been a bit hit and miss with defeats at the hands of fellow promotion challengers but their immediate fate is in their own hands. The Cheshire side have the Reusch First Division Cup Final against City of Liverpool to look forward to on Bank Holiday Monday but, before then, 100% attention is required on the remaining league matches. The first of these comes away at the picturesque Rakesmoor where Holker Old Boys are the hosts. The Old Boys are another of our sides who will finish in mid-table but are in poor current form. However, with three matches to play in the final week they will look to end the season in a positive manner.
Challenging Sandbach United for the final play off place are Alsager Town. The Bullets have been there or thereabouts for most of the season but a serious lapse in form has allowed other clubs to overtake them. A run of six defeats on the bounce was arrested on Easter Monday when a Mark Grice hat-trick led them to a win at FC Oswestry Town. It may be a case of so near and yet so far for Alsager this season but, as they say, hope springs eternal as Silsden are the visitors to Woodland Court.
The Cobbydalers are another of our sides who will finish mid-table. Recent form has been decent and the matches remaining provide the platform to wrap up the season in a positive frame of mind..
At the bottom end of the table, Ashton Town and Eccleshall have struggled for points all season. Both can and have played attractive football but, to use another old saying, its results that count and football can be a very hard taskmaster.
Ashton Town are at home on Saturday when they face a Chadderton side who have proved tough to beat all season as Widnes will testify following the Easter Monday match. The North Manchester side may be somewhat jaded after a tough 120 minutes and the agony of a defeat on penalties on Thursday night.
Ashton Town saw any hopes of avoiding a bottom two finish fade away in a midweek defeat at St Helens Town but pride in both club and performance will stir them on to give of their all once again.
Eccleshall are now certain of a bottom two finish but, as with Ashton Town, will try their very best not to be rock bottom. A trip to the Brian Boys West View Stadium on Saturday sees the Staffordshire lads pit their collective wits and energies against Bacup Borough.
The home side in this match have been their normal enigmatic self all season. Renowned for being difficult to beat, particularly at home, manager Brent Peters will be reminding his side that there are still matches to play and opportunities to influence the final outcome even though, at least on paper, there is nothing much to play for. A comprehensive win over AFC Blackpool in midweek will leave the side in good spirits coming into this match.
It’s probably fair to say that Atherton LR have struggled for most of the season. A reasonable start to the campaign rather flattered to deceive as points proved to be very difficult to come by and the side have needed to keep a very close eye on the sides at the bottom. A place just above the bottom two looks to be the likely outcome of a difficult season.
On Saturday they travel to Park Road to face a Cheadle Town side which has had a season of somewhat mixed fortunes. Hopes were high at the beginning of the season but Terry Hincks’ side will finish in the mid table pack despite a maximum haul of nine points from the last three matches.
St Helens Town have experienced a season which could be described as itinerant. Huge disappointment that the new facility at Ruskin Drive has not been available to them this season has probably dominated the thinking around the club but all is now looking better for next season as the necessary work at Ruskin Drive is now underway. Before that there is the not so small matter of completing this season and the matches to come include a season concluder against Charnock Richard.
Before that, a trip to the all-weather surface at Lambeth Grove to face Stockport Town. The trials tribulations of Stockport Town around the Christmas and New Year period have been well documented and it is to their credit that they quickly recovered. The Lions have had a more gentle end to the season than many other clubs and have put in some good performances with the well travelled Ben Halfacre finding the back of the net regularly. A strong finish will be the target as a prelude to next season.
Our final match this week sees two more of the league newcomers meet as FC Oswestry Town travel to Carlisle City. Both of these clubs have acquitted themselves well in their first season in the Hallmark Security League and have pretty much identical playing records. Comfortable mid table positions represent consolidation and no doubt both will be wanting to push on next season.
This is likely to be a well contested match in the attractive setting of the Gillford Park Stadium.
So, still much to play for for many of the First Division clubs and keenly contested matches can be expected. With just about all parts of our region hosting a match then there’s sure to be a match near you. Wherever you enjoy your live football this Saturday, enjoy the match.