21 of the 22 NWCFL Premier Division clubs are in action on Saturday, Runcorn Town being in cup action means that Squires Gate will have a free weekend. Expected freezing conditions on Friday night may threaten a number of games, so we have to cross our fingers this week for a busy Saturday schedule.
Runcorn Town are the last remaining North West Counties side in the FA Vase, and they play their last 16 tie against Walsall Wood, of the Midland Combination League. Walsall are having a good season, having only lost one of their 16 league games so far, and will prove a tough test for Runcorn Town. But Town are unbeaten in five heading in to the game, winning four of them, and will be high in confidence. They should be spurred on by a good crowd as they attempt to set up a potential quarter-final tie against Guernsey.
The biggest NWCFL Premier Division game of the day is at Brantingham Road where Maine Road face Bootle in a second versus fourth battle. A point or a win will take Road to the top of the league with current leaders Runcorn Town in Vase action, but Bootle will see this as a huge opportunity to catch up in the promotion race. A win for the Bucks would see them six points off the top of the table with three games in hand.
At the opposite end of the table, Bacup Borough are at home to Ashton Athletic in a relegation six-pointer. Bacup lie in 19th, four points clear of the drop zone, whereas Athletic are 18th, five points clear. Whichever side emerges victorious from this one will take a huge advantage in the fight against relegation. The two teams cannot be separated in terms of form, both have won three and lost three of their last six, and it may well be home advantage that gives Bacup a slight edge.
There is a Cheshire derby in Winsford as they welcome Alsager Town to Barton Stadium. Winsford beat the Bullets 4-0 in the reverse fixture on Boxing Day, so Alsager will be out for revenge. It is a meeting of two teams that are experiencing blips in their form, as neither side have won in their last three games.
St. Helens Town picked up a good point on Monday night away at Runcorn Town, but their fight for survival doesn’t get any easier this weekend, as they face Padiham. The Saints lie one place above the relegation zone in 20th, and are two points clear of Squires Gate in 21st. It will be tough to get anything against third-placed Padiham, they have lost just one of their last 12 games in all competitions and could go top on Saturday with a win if results go their way.
Barnoldswick will look to keep their slim hopes of promotion alive as they host Glossop North End. This is the second meeting of these two teams at Silentnight Stadium this season, after a 4-2 Barnoldswick win in the League Challenge Cup back in October. Barnoldswick are in sixth but with six of their next seven games at home, they will see the next few weeks as an opportunity to pick up some real form. A confident Glossop side will be tough opposition though, they are coming off a midweek 6-2 win over AFC Liverpool .
Runcorn Linnets are unbeaten in eight and will look to continue that good form away at Wigan Robin Park. Linnets have gradually moved up the table since the hiring of new manager Joey Dunn in November, and could go fourth if they win and Bootle fail to beat Maine Road. Park are in mid-table obscurity in 14th, but could move up a place with a win.
Colne’s promotion challenge seems to be all but over after they failed to win any of their last four games. They will be looking to put that right at home against AFC Liverpool. The away side are 16th in the league table but second in the form table and will be a tough test for Colne, they will be smarting after that midweek 6-2 defeat at Glossop too and it would not be surprise to see them get a result here.
Stone Dominoes seem all but relegated as they prop up the rest of the league on just ten points. They did manage to record just their second win of the season last week against Squires Gate which may inject a small amount of belief in to the squad. They are away at AFC Blackpool this weekend, the two teams met last month and AFC Blackpool ran out 4-2 winners. But a win this time around and Dominoes may start thinking of survival.
Silsden meet Congleton Town at Keighley Road in a battle of two out-of-form teams. Both clubs have won just one of their last six games, and Silsden have lost their last three, conceding 13 goals in the process. Congleton may see this as a chance to get back on track, they sit in ninth and have fallen away from the promotion race after a promising start.
The final game of the day is a true mid-table affair, as 13th-placed Norton United host 11th-placed Stockport Sports. The away side are bottom of the form table though, having not won in their last seven games. Stockport Sports won 7-0 back in September when the two teams first met, but it may well be a different story this time around as both teams have had drastic changes in form since then.
Saturday 23rd February 2013 – FA Vase Fifth Round
Runcorn Town vs Walsall Wood
NWCFL Premier Division
AFC Blackpool vs Stone Dominoes
Bacup Borough vs Ashton Athletic
Barnoldswick Town vs Glossop North End
Colne vs AFC Liverpool
Maine Road vs Bootle
Norton United vs Stockport Sports
Silsden vs Congleton Town
St. Helens Town vs Padiham
Wigan Robin Park vs Runcorn Linnets
Winsford United vs Alsager Town