As April draws ever closer, the race for promotion in the North West Counties Premier Division remains wide open.
It looks as though there are, at most, five teams still in with a chance. Padiham currently lead the way but Runcorn Town and Maine Road sit right behind them, ready to capitalise on any slip up.
Maine Road have played more games than any other team in the top five which leaves them at a disadvantage, Bootle on the other hand have games in hand on all of their rivals. They currently sit in fourth, ten points behind Padiham, but if they were to win all four of their games in hand then they would go top.
Winsford United are the outsiders, they are putting together a good run of form – currently unbeaten in six, winning five of those. If they were to win their games in hand over Padiham, then they would sit just five points off the top. If Winsford continue their form and others stutter, it is not unreasonable to think they could go up.
For Runcorn Linnets in sixth though, it seems it may have to be next year. They have played a game more than Winsford and are still two points behind them. If they could have beaten the Blues in their meeting last week then it might have been a different story, but a 0-0 draw left them wondering what might have been.
If we look at the remaining fixtures of the clubs in the mix, we can get a better idea of who might be playing in the Evo-Stik First Division next season. I’ve had a go at predicting the results too (shown in italic next to the fixtures).
The Storks have some really tough games in their schedule and you cannot see them winning all of their games against Linnets, Maine Road, Bootle and Runcorn Town, especially considering they are all away. It looks as though it may be too tough for Padiham to finish as league winners, but if they manage to do it, nobody will argue that they didn’t deserve it.
01.04.13 (H) Silsden – Win
06.04.13 (A) Runcorn Linnets – Draw
11.04.13 (A) Bacup Borough – Win
13.04.13 (H) Congleton Town – Win
20.04.13 (A) Maine Road – Draw
23.04.13 (A) Bootle – Draw
27.04.13 (A) Ashton Athletic – Win
TBA (A) Runcorn Town – Loss
Road’s fixture list has been fairly kind to them, you would expect them to be able to pick up a lot of points in their final games. They do have a habit of throwing up an unexpected poor performance though, as shown by their ten losses this season. All they can do is try to win their remaining games and hope the other slip up
01.04.13 (H) Stockport Sports – Win
06.04.13 (A) St. Helens Town – Win
13.04.13 (H) Squires Gate – Win
20.04.13 (H) Padiham – Draw
27.04.13 (H) AFC Liverpool – Win
TBA (A) AFC Blackpool – Win
Runcorn Town’s schedule is similar to that of Padiham’s, in that they have a run of very tough fixtures at the back end of April (Bootle, Winsford and Padiham). However, Runcorn Town play all of those games at home which may give them the advantage.
01.04.13 (H) Runcorn Linnets – Draw
06.04.13 (A) Wigan Robin Park – Win
09.04.13 (A) AFC Liverpool – Win
13.04.13 (H) Glossop North End – Win
15.04.13 (H) Squires Gate – Win
20.04.13 (H) Bootle – Loss
22.04.13 (H) Winsford United – Draw
27.04.13 (A) Stockport Sports – Win
TBA (H) Padiham – Win
Looking at the league table, you would think Bootle are in a great position, but when you see how tightly packed their schedule is, you can’t help but think that will affect them. They are pretty much playing three games a week from now until the end of the season, as well as tough games against the likes of Padiham, Runcorn Town, Winsford and Barnoldswick twice. They will do well to catch the leaders with this influx of fixtures.
28.03.13 (H) Glossop North End – Win
30.03.13 (A) Glossop North End – Draw
01.04.13 (H) AFC Liverpool – Win
04.04.13 (A) Barnoldswick Town – Loss
06.04.13 (H) Stone Dominoes – Win
09.04.13 (H) Alsager Town – Win
13.04.13 (A) Colne – Draw
20.04.13 (A) Runcorn Town – Win
23.04.13 (H) Padiham – Draw
27.04.13 (H) Barnoldswick Town – Draw
29.04.13 (A) St. Helens Town – Win
01.05.13 (H) Winsford United – Draw
Winsford have a fairly tight schedule too, but it seems easier than Bootle’s as they only face two teams from the top five. It’s the games against the likes of Barnoldswick, Congleton and Colne in which Winsford will have to pull off a win. If they can’t do that, then you can’t see them going up.
30.03.13 (A) St. Helens Town – Win
03.04.13 (A) AFC Liverpool – Win
06.04.13 (H) Congleton Town – Loss
09.04.13 (A) Stone Dominoes – Win
13.04.13 (H) Silsden – Win
17.04.13 (A) Silsden – Win
20.04.13 (A) Squires Gate – Win
22.04.13 (A) Runcorn Town – Draw
27.04.13 (H) Colne – Win
01.05.13 (A) Bootle – Draw
Predicted final table
My result predictions leave the table looking like this:
- Runcorn Town – 90 points
- Padiham – 89 points
- Bootle – 87 points
- Maine Road – 86 points
- Winsford United – 84 points
Very difficult to predict, but whatever happens we are in for an exciting finish to the season.
There were 25 goals in seven games across the NWCFL Premier Division this weekend. With some very impressive away performances and yet another change at the top of the table.
But the game that generated the most interest was in the FA Vase, as the last remaining NWCFL side in the competition, Runcorn Town, hosted Midlands Combination League outfit Walsall Wood. There was a good crowd of 233 at Pavilions, but they witnessed a 2-1 Runcorn Town loss in extra time, a result that means there will be no trip to Wembley for an NWCFL team in 2013. Jamie Hankins put Wood ahead just before the break, but James McShane’s equaliser sent the game to extra time. It was Walsall Wood’s top scorer Ahmet Bilgimer’s 109th-minute goal that sent the away side in to the last eight.
With Runcorn Town in Vase action, Maine Road had the chance to go top if they could overcome overcome fourth-placed Bootle at Brantingham Road. But the Bucks pulled off a superb 1-0 win with a late Daniel O’Connor goal, putting themselves in a great position in the table. They are seven points off the lead, with two games in hand, as the race for promotion really starts to heat up.
The team both Bootle and Maine Road are chasing at the top of the league is now Padiham. They beat relegation threatened St. Helens Town 4-2 away from home on Saturday, thanks to a hat-trick from Ben Allen, and a fourth from Keiron Pickup. St. Helens twice led through Michael Sykes-Wright and Philip Williams, but could not pull off the upset, as Padiham scored three goals in the last seven minutes. The result leaves Padiham in first place with games in hand over both Runcorn Town and Maine Road.
Runcorn Linnets are now unbeaten in nine games, winning seven of those, after they thrashed ten-man Wigan Robin Park 6-0 in front of Park’s highest crowd of the season, 138. Wigan’s goalkeeper Jason Foulds was sent off early in the second half with the score at 1-0, and Linnets took full advantage. Goals from Chris Lomax, Adam Wade (shown below), Lee Madin, Jamie Campbell and a Mark Houghton double sent the large contingent of travelling Linnets fans home delighted. It leaves the club in fifth, eight points behind leaders Padiham who have two games in hand.
Alsager Town exacted the perfect revenge on Winsford United after they beat Alsager 4-0 on Boxing Day. This time, it was Alsager who came away 4-0 winners. Two goals each from Sean Turner and Jed Davies gave Alsager their 11th win of the season. Winsford slip to ninth, having not won in their last four games.
Barnoldswick Town overcame a tough test at home against Glossop North End as they picked up three points with a 3-1 win. Mark Threlfall’s first half penalty was cancelled out by Jonathan Hirst, but two goals in six minutes from Danny Morton and Thomas Bradley saw Barnoldswick come away with the win.
After a good start to the season, Congleton Town have now only won one of their last six, and only a late Chris Smith equaliser salvaged a point for them away at Silsden on Saturday. Christopher Wademan put the home side ahead just before the hour mark, but they couldn’t hold on for what would have been a vital win.
Stone Dominoes could not follow up the success of their second league win last week with another on Saturday, as they lost 2-0 at AFC Blackpool. Ryan Vaughan and Stephen Pickup scored the goals as Blackpool move up one place to 13th in the table. Stone remain ten points adrift, with games rapidly running out for them to catch up.
Three NWCFL Premier Division games fell victim to the weather once again, with games at Bacup Borough, Colne and Norton United all postponed due to frozen pitches.
Saturday 23rd February 2013 – FA Vase Fifth Round
Runcorn Town 1-2 Walsall Wood (after extra time)
NWCFL Premier Division
AFC Blackpool 2-0 Stone Dominoes
Bacup Borough P-P Ashton Athletic
Barnoldswick Town 3-1 Glossop North End
Colne P-P AFC Liverpool
Maine Road 0-1 Bootle
Norton United P-P Stockport Sports
Silsden 1-1 Congleton Town
St. Helens Town 2-4 Padiham
Wigan Robin Park 0-6 Runcorn Linnets
Winsford United 0-4 Alsager Town
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