Premier Division Preview - 22nd April 2017
Fri 21st April 2017 | General | By Gary Langley
As we enter the final week of league games, we know that all of the season's hard work will conclude shortly and that the drama that is set to unfold will define what has been one of the most competitive leagues for many years.
There are numerous permutations at the top and bottom of the table that could see everything – or nothing wrapped up by the end of play today so lets look at this weekend’s games and see what is happening.
League leaders, Atherton Collieries, they travel to Winsford United for their game at the St Lukes Barton Stadium, now if they win and Bootle don’t win their game away at Abbey Hey then Colls’ will be Champions. Bootle can remain in contention is if both sides win, draws are not ideal. Both contenders have won five of their last six league games and both win in midweek, Bootle won 4-1 away at AFC Liverpool on Monday and then a 90th minute winner from Ste Jones in their game, ironically against Abbey Hey in midweek. Atherton Collieries defeated AFC Darwen 5-1 at home on Easter Monday and this keeping them in prime position.
AFC Darwen are nearly safe and they host 1874 Northwich at the WEC Group Anchor Ground, Darwen’s 4-1 win over Squires Gate on Wednesday evening ensured that they need just a point to be playing Premier Division football next season but still leaves a slight question mark over the Gate’ who are still not mathematically safe either. For Squires Gate their task is not an easy one this weekend as they welcome Runcorn Linnets to the Brian Addison Stadium. Linnets have been flying in the run-in, 2nd in the form table and only one defeat in League games in this calendar year which probably won’t impress Squires Gate given their position.
New Mills are the only side that can catch them but they require Gate to lose and straight wins themselves if they are to avoid the drop. The Millers travel to the Ambitek Stadium to face Irlam, again if an escape is to be achieved they are going to have to beat an in-form club to do so. Irlam currently sit ninth in the form table but prior to a 0-2 defeat to already relegated Cammell Laird last weekend they had been very impressive.
Runcorn Town welcome Padiham to Pavilions with both clubs having reasons to be cheerful for next season, Town were still title contenders as recently as a fortnight ago and only seemed undone by successive postponements in the New Year. They go into this match in good form and depending on other results could still finish as high as second. Despite an inconsistent start, Padiham have been on the coat tails of the leading pack since before Christmas and still sit in sixth position. The top five got off to such a great start it has been difficult for Padiham to get anywhere near them but they have held on solidly to that league position and if they can start better next time around, I expect them to be in the mix.
Hanley Town in ninth host fifteenth placed Barnoldswick Town at Potteries Park and they can still finish as high as seventh, either way they have had a splendid first season at Step five. Macron Cup finalists, Barnoldswick have to put cup dreams aside for a short while as they face a hectic week with up to five games to play in seven days, the midweek postponement of their game against Runcorn Town won’t have helped, however, the serious accident on the M6 couldn’t have been forecast.
West Didsbury & Chorlton welcome in-form Cammell Laird to The Recreation Ground with the visitors really flying since relegation was confirmed. Mondays victory at Irlam continued a run that sees Lairds unbeaten in their last six and in the top ten of the form table. West Didsbury & Chorlton are in even better form and have recorded four wins in their last six games.
Ashton Athletic host AFC Liverpool at Brocstedes Park and the home side are looking decent with four wins and a draw in their last six. I was at their game on Easter Sunday against Squires Gate and they look a hard working side with pace down the flanks and the ability to stick the ball away. AFC Liverpool have had the consistency of tartan paint of late, they have worked hard but struggle to string two good results together which has seen them slip to eleventh in the table, having been in and around 7th-8th for long periods of the season. For AFC this is the first of four games in seven days.
Barton secured their Premier Division Safety in midweek with an impressive looking 1-0 win over 1874 Northwich on Wednesday. They welcome Maine Road to The Hinchliffe Holmes Stadium with Steve Lloyd having grafted hard all season to keep the villagers up with the club having done a major squad re-build over the summer. This game sees two young sides who can play some decent football going head to head so is likely to be easy on the eye of the neutral.
Nelson had been battling the drop all season and sadly their fate was sealed early last week. They face Congleton Town at Little Wembley but will be looking to finish strong as they re-group and build for next season. Congleton have had a disappointing season by their usual high standards, they currently sit sixteenth in the league table and their recent form is reflected by being in the bottom three of the form table. They will be looking to challenge next season and a strong finish will give them the impetus to go again stronger when the new season starts.
So there you have it, a full fixture programme this weekend with so many permutations at both ends of the table, one thing is for sure is that fans of all clubs wont be looking just at their results this weekend, the excitement of the strong finish sees interest from all over the place in how the division will pan out. No time to rest either, as next week sees a large number of midweek games taking place as the Hallmark Security League looks to hit the finishing tape by the end of the month.