Premier Division Preview - 13th January 2018

Fri 12th January 2018 | General
By Stewart Taylor

Stewart Taylor, Discipline Officer and Respect Co-Ordinator has taken a look at this weekend's Premier Division Fixtures and as usual has a unique and in-depth look at the matters directly affecting what is a great looking weekend of games.

We come into this weekend’s round of League fixtures after a midweek schedule dominated by cup matches across a whole range of competitions. It is splendid to see cup matches played but it does rather put pressure on the League schedule and none have found this more so than 1874 Northwich.

An emotional and hard fought victory in the Buildbase FA Vase last Sunday has been rewarded with a home tie against Chichester City of the Premier Division of the Southern Combination League (Step 5) in a match to be played in early February. However, there was no time for thinking ahead to this match as the Greens were straight back in action on Tuesday. A defeat against Evo-Stik Northern Premier League leaders Altrincham in the Cheshire Senior Cup was no disgrace. The Macron Cup match away at First Division Abbey Hulton United on Thursday night saw the side progress into the third round of the competition where landlords Winsford United await.

AFC Liverpool are the visitors to the St Luke’s Barton Stadium this Saturday and the Merseyside team have much to play for. Following the departure of Manager Chris Stammers, the search is on for a new Manager to take the side forward. Current form is not too bad but it will have been disappointing to see the oft postponed Macron Cup tie against Holker Old Boys postponed again in midweek. In a season where every point is very important the side will need to collect a good few more yet to feel truly comfortable. Today would be a good place to start but against an 1874 side in great form that will be no easy task.

Over in the East of our region, Barnoldswick Town are the hosts as Northwich Victoria make the trip up from Cheshire. The month of September cost Barlick dear in that a good start to the campaign was blown away by five defeats and two draws during that month. Results have improved since then and current form is decent despite bowing out of the Macron Cup in midweek against a pretty rampant Charnock Richard. The stop/start nature of fixtures due to a number of postponements has not helped. Having said that, we could apply the same comment to all of our clubs so finding ways of  keeping players fit and ready during fallow periods is very important.

Much as with Barlick, Northwich Victoria have not been able to show too much consistency this season. The introduction of new manager Steve Wilkes signalled something of a change in fortune and the addition of the experienced Jason Hart to the line up has been a big positive. Brian Matthews has contributed just over half of his side’s goals this season and with contributions from elsewhere Vics do tend to score goals. Unfortunately, for them, they also seem to leak a few as well. Expect goals in this match.

Bottom side Barnton are becoming in danger of being somewhat marooned at the base of the League table particularly as they have played more matches than most of their immediate rivals. In midweek, a potentially daunting task to face Stockport County of the Vanarama National League North in the Cheshire Senior Cup was met head on with Barnton taking a lead into half time. Unfortunately for the Villagers County came back to take the tie with the crucial two goals coming in the last 15 minutes. Time is running short to initiate a change in fortunes in an attempt to climb the League table.

The visitors to Townfield on Saturday are Maine Road who themselves have had their share of disruption this season. Matt Barnes took over the managerial reins back in November and after a slightly faltering start results wise the side come into this match on the back of three successive wins and the very welcome nine points which go with them. Expect this one to be tight as a side really needing points come up against a team in very good recent form.

AFC Darwen have played just one League game since losing narrowly to Lancaster City in the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy at the beginning of December. Indeed, their last league point came in a creditable draw at home to Runcorn Town in the middle of November. The result of all of this sees the club in 22nd place in the League as they set off to the TDP Solicitors Stadium to play Bootle. A defeat at the hands of Padiham in the Macron Cup on Tuesday will not have helped give the side a lift but just as with fellow strugglers Barnton a change of fortune is needed.

The home side for this match have only played once in the last month, that match seeing the side register a much needed victory at home to Padiham following some inconsistent form. A hat trick from Carl Peers made the difference on the day and the side will be looking to get back to playing matches and pushing on from their current 7th position in the League table.

Mossie Park sees a good looking match up on Saturday as Charnock Richard in 4th place host Ashton Athletic who are currently 8th.  Charnock Richard are having a more than decent season with striker Carl Grimshaw again high in the goalscorers table with 21 so far this term. Recent form is pretty good and a comfortable victory over fellow Premier Division side Barnoldswick Town in midweek has taken them into the next round of the Macron Cup and a visit to Bootle in March. There is still much to play for this season as the side look to capitalise on their games in hand but meet a side in Ashton Athletic who will harbour similar ambitions.

Ashton Athletic are equally blessed in the goalscoring department with Dale Korie-Butler regularly hitting the back of the net for the Yellows. They are behind in League fixtures, largely due to some excellent performances in cups earlier in the season, so perhaps occupy something of a false League position. Games will come thick and fast as the games in hand are fitted in. An example of that was this week with a League defeat at home on Tuesday to City of Liverpool being rapidly followed by a victory on Thursday against Bacup Borough in the Macron Cup.

Given the goalscoring potential of both of these sides we might expect some goals here but Ashton Athletic have a well drilled defence. The outcome of this one is difficult to second guess.

Widnes head down to Potteries Park on Saturday to face a Hanley Town side who have had the wind taken from their sails a little of recent time.

The Staffordshire outfit started the season well but are without a win since the middle of November having lost the last six matches. Nevertheless, they remain 5th in the League table and handily placed to push forward should they be able to recapture that early season form.

Widnes are going great guns having put together a 10 match winning streak with only 7 goals conceded. They are well ahead of most clubs in terms of the number of League matches played so far this season but 3rd place in the League is good reward and, as the old saying goes “it’s better to have points in the bag than games in hand”. An opportunity to test themselves against higher ranked opposition in midweek didn’t materialise as the match at Marine in the Liverpool Senior Cup was postponed but the side are certainly firing and will be well up for this match.

The Ambitek Stadium sees home side Irlam welcome visitors Burscough on Saturday.

Irlam are in poor form with finding the back of the net proving difficult. A move up the table is the ambition of every club but for Irlam to put this ambition into practice points are needed and pretty soon. It would be unfair to write off the season’s ambition of finishing in a higher League position than last season (8th) just yet but the tide needs to turn. A repeat of the victory in the reverse League fixture earlier in the season would be most welcome.

Visitors Burscough come into this match having been disrupted less than most with weather related postponements. The side have proved to be somewhat enigmatic this season playing well but not managing to convert some good play into as many League points as they would have liked and felt that they deserved. Games involving Burscough tend to be tight affairs and there is no reason to think that this one will be any different.

Padiham come into Saturday’s match at home to Runcorn Town having secured a place in the next round of the Macron Cup following a narrow victory over AFC Darwen, thanks to a goal by Spencer Jordan in the last 10 minutes, in midweek. It looked like the Storks were putting a relatively poor start to the season behind them but a couple of recent League defeats amidst a flurry of postponed matches has rather reversed that trend. The chance to carry forward any impetus from that Cup win in midweek comes against a side which have been riding high in the League from the very beginning.

At one point in the season it looked as though Runcorn Town were running away with the League. However, experienced NWCFL watchers know that the League is very competitive and that an extended winning streak can come to an end with a bit of a bump. In a microcosm, those two sentences might describe the fortunes of Runcorn Town so far this season. Having said that, any side which boasts the twin strike force of Craig Cairns and Mark Reed are always liable to score goals even though neither was on target in the 0-0 draw away at Congleton Town in midweek. Second place in the League table with a match in hand over crosstown rivals Runcorn Linnets is a good place to be as the second half of the season begins to unfold.

Mention of Runcorn Linnets and Congleton Town leads us nicely into our next match as the Bears make the short trip from Congleton to the Millbank Linnets Stadium.

Sitting proudly at the summit of the League table, confidence is high in the Linnets camp. The side gave a good account of themselves in the midweek Cheshire Senior Cup game at home to a Crewe Alexandra outfit containing more than a smattering of players with first team experience. A long winning League streak has taken the side to the top of the League table, a position they will fight hard to maintain. The side have not conceded a single goal in League matches since November and tend to find the back of the net regularly themselves with goals coming from a number of sources. This pattern augers well for future matches and the first chance to continue that streak comes in this match.

Congleton Town showed determination and resilience in that midweek goalless  draw against Runcorn Town and the same spirit will doubtless be needed on Saturday. The Bears are another of our sides who have seen managerial changes this season and that does tend to have an effect. Current form is better that their League position which can certainly be taken as a positive with some tough looking fixtures on the horizon.

After a poor start to the season, Squires Gate saw something of an upturn in fortunes as Autumn faded to Winter but, sadly for the Fylde Coast side, this has not been maintained during the darkest days of the year. Points gained against sides towards the top of the League table are very welcome but points dropped to teams around them in the table will have been disappointing.

Abbey Hey provide the opposition this Saturday at the Brian Addison Stadium and come into this match having finally completed their oft postponed Macron Cup match at home to New Mills on Thursday night where despite a hat-trick from New Mills striker Dennis Sheriff Abbey progressed to set up a third round tie away at Stockport Town. Abbey are another of our sides who seem to struggle to find the back of the net in League matches with just three goals in the last five. This largely accounts for a lowly League position for a side who play attractive football.

If this match were on the pools it would be a real challenge to predict the outcome.

Our final match this Saturday sees West Didsbury & Chorlton host Winsford United at the Recreation Ground in South Manchester. West have not played a Home match since the end of November and, during that intervening period, they have been involved in some high scoring matches, more often that not coming away with nothing. The side have slid down the League table and the optimism at the beginning of the season has now been somewhat tempered. Their record this season against Saturday’s opponents reads won one (League) and lost one (Macron Cup) and all of their supporters will be hoping for a repeat of the League result in this match.

The Blues of Winsford have had something of an up and down sort of season and, as a consequence, occupy a place in the middle of the League table. It’s been a tough run of League fixtures recently with a number of matches against sides high in the rankings. Nevertheless, there have been some good wins for the side and a valuable points contribution as a result. As ever at this time of the season, a run of victories brings its rewards in League position and Winsford United must certainly fancy their chances of doing exactly that during the coming weeks.

That’s our menu for this Saturday and whichever match you choose there is sure to be some fine entertainment. Support your local team and enjoy the match.


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