Division One Preview - 10th February 2018
Fri 9th February 2018 | General | By Martin Wild
Whitchurch Alport Press Officer, Martin Wild (@wildym48) has taken time out from his club's busy schedule to cast an eye over this weekends Hallmark Security League Division One games. As always, Martin views it from a unique perspective and sees an exciting weekend of fixtures.
The last time I did one of these, the mercury levels were significantly higher than they are just now. And with some meteorological experts predicting the coldest winter in, oooh, something like 2,018 years, I could be forgiven for taking the easy option here and banging P-P alongside each game.
And that would allow me more time to start the 10,000 piece jigsaw of Edinburgh Castle, which my Aunty Moira bought me for Christmas back in 1981 (still boxed if anyone’s interested).
Alas, I’m better than that and as it’s Sunday morning and ‘er indoors is watching Heartbeat repeats on ITV3 – grounds for me asking her to pack her bags really – I’d prefer to imagine that all 10 First Division games will be played as scheduled, so that I've not wasted another 2 hours of my life I'll never get back.
So, we’ll begin with what undoubtedly looks like game of the day as Danny Forrest’s long-time league leaders Silsden, host fourth placed Prestwich Heys. With 14 wins from 15 at the Cobbydale Construction Stadium, it would take a fool to look beyond a home win, but Heys have done well on their travels against top six sides.
With a morale-boosting midweek victory over Cheadle, and Sils goal machine Joe Gaughan missing through suspension, this may not be the worst time for Prestwich to head across to West Yorkshire.
Whitchurch Alport are flying high at the moment and have been systematically weaving their way up the table after occupying eighth spot as recently as November. They have one of the meanest defences in the country at Step 6 (only 16 league goals conceded in their 23 matches) and are on a 10 game winning streak. Luke Goddard has assembled a squad full of depth and quality but isn’t afraid to rotate to keep everyone fresh.
Despite some bravado on Twitter (sorry, that’s my fault), everyone at Yockings Park is committed and focussed on the job in hand. Respect will be paid to St Helens Town who, for an hour or so, were locked at 1-1 in the reverse fixture at the end of December, before Alport prevailed, 5-1. Town’s lowly league position is somewhat false in my book, and I expect them to pull away from the lower regions of the table, but with a carrot dangling in the shape of second spot should Whitchurch complete the ‘double’, it’s a game where the form book favours the away side.
There should be a good crowd on at Wood Park Stadium, home of Alsager Town, who lie sixth in the table after Sandbach won their midweek home game against Cammell Laird by a goal to nil. Abbey Hulton United make the short trip across the A500 looking to put another spanner in the works for the promotion chasing Bullets, who disappointed their own supporters on home soil last time out with a 4-1 reverse at the hands of Cheadle Town.
Based on league standings Alsager will start the match as favourites, but with sticky pitches and pressure mounting for those with their eyes on a prize, there will be some funny results in the months ahead. Not that anyone connected with Town will be laughing if United do manage to record a fifth away win in their debut season in the Counties.
Cammell Laird 1907 at Kirklands looks like a daunting prospect for Brent Peters’ Bacup Borough side. Lairds are on a terrific run of form in the league with just one defeat all season at their Birkenhead home. That came against Litherland Remyca when the club were still finding their feet after relegation from the Premier Division in May, and they’ve barely dropped a handful of points at home since. Joe Malkin is the man the shackles will need to be kept on to enhance Bacup’s chances of taking anything home with them.
Last week’s 3-1 win at Atherton LR halted a miserable sequence of away days for Brent’s boys who’d lost 11 of their previous 12 on their travels. I sense a Lairds win here - which will be enough to see them climb up into the final play-off place if Alsager were to slip up at home again.
Dave Worthington’s AFC Blackpool side entertain Eccleshall, hoping for a win that will keep their own play-off hopes alive. Dave Dale will be looking for a third successive victory for the visitors for the first time this season, having recorded eye-catching 3-0 and 4-2 wins over FC Oswestry Town and Cammell Laird in their previous two outings.
Blackpool’s inconsistencies have been costly this term and especially at their Mechanics Ground base. The Tin Hut Brigade will expect their side to romp home but I think it will be closer than that, and the Pershall Park club are more than capable of springing a shock on the Fylde Coast.
A team that may yet come through the pack to trouble the play-off spots are Holker Old Boys. The Rakesmoor Lane outfit are at Crilly Park and might just have enough for an Atherton LR side that languish comfortably in the middle third of the table. Warren Jones started well enough at Crilly but surely the new LR boss will already be planning with next season in mind? Like most sides in the division, Atherton are a match for anyone on their day and Holker will have to adapt to the heavy Crilly pitch, if they are to start a three match away programme with three points.
Two sides that were expected to mount a challenge at the top end of the division have yet to justify those predictions way back in August. Chadderton are on a rotten run but the goalless draw at Nelson on Monday night at least stopped the rot –earning them their first point from the last 18 available. They face a Stockport Town team that beat Hyde United on penalties on the same evening, but ill-discipline is something that Town chief Dave Wild will have to guard against, after an eighth red card of the season was administered to one of his players against Whitchurch.
The two sides last met in November when two Ben Halfacre goals helped Town to a 4-2 win and if the towering striker has his scoring boots on, it could be another difficult afternoon for Chadderton. With Reuben Abreu and the recently acquired Rhys Webb also amongst their ranks, Stockport might yet string some wins together to get them closer to that dotted line. But defeat at the ARK Fleetech Stadium would be a damaging one for Wild’s men.
Daisy Hill host Carlisle City at New Sirs knowing a win might well be enough to lift them out of the bottom two for the first time this season. But City will be keen to put last week’s 0-1 home defeat against Sandbach United out of their minds. Wins at Stockport and Blackpool were sandwiched in between a 0-3 setback at Litherland – although Colin Quirk’s quickfire hat-trick deep into the second half was cruel on City, who had missed a pen at nil apiece. James Tose will want nothing less than three points for his side against Daisy and I expect them to get them (which is great news for home supporters).
It will be like Groundhog Day at Little Wembley as Nelson and FC Oswestry Town lock horns for the second successive week. Sam Holt’s last gasp leveller at the Venue earned rock bottom Nelson a point from a 2-2 draw 7 days ago, and the Admirals have shown signs of a resurgence under Steve Cunningham that will need to be continued to get them out of trouble.
With two wins and four draws from their last seven they can approach the match with confidence, but I’m risking splinters on my derriere with another draw a distinct possibility here. Kudos is owed to Oswestry though, who have turned their season around after propping up the table throughout most, if not all, of the autumnal months. They have added some quality to their squad too and could finish the season strongly.
Last but in no way least is the meeting between New Mills and Cheadle Town. Both of these sides have shown flashes of what they are capable of this season, but for whatever reason they haven’t been able to put together the kind of run that would propel them up the table, hence why both are in the bottom half. A win for the Derbyshire club though would be enough to take them above Town so there’s the incentive right there. And for that reason... I’m going for a draw!