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
There were some big fixtures at both ends of the NWCFL Premier Division table on Monday and Tuesday this week, and they resulted in some surprise results.
The midweek schedule kicked off on Monday night, top of the league faced 20th as Runcorn Town hosted St. Helens Town at Pavilions. The home side had the chance to go four points clear at the top in what looked like a certain Runcorn Town win, but St. Helens battled to a creditable 1-1 draw. Phil Williams put Saints 1-0 ahead and they were close to pulling off a magnificent victory before Rob Whyte’s second goal in two games levelled the scores.
That result meant that Maine Road could go back to the top of the league if they could win at Winsford United on Tuesday night. But Road could not capitalise on Runcorn Town’s slip up, as they played out their second 0-0 draw in succession. It leaves Maine Road second on 57 points, only behind Runcorn Town on goal difference but Runcorn have a game in hand.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, Colne had their biggest crowd of the season (134) as they hosted Barnoldswick Town in a local derby. Barnoldswick won the game 1-0 with a late winner from Mark Threlfall, his 19th goal of the season. Colne have now gone four games without a win as their promotion challenge fades. The game was overshadowed though by a serious injury to Colne’s Michael Morrison, who was taken away in an ambulance after suffering a broken leg.
Bootle had a great chance to close the gap on their promotion rivals as they faced Squires Gate. Gate were 21st and had not won, or scored, in their previous five games. That trend looked like continuing when Bootle went 2-0 up after 25 minutes with goals from Sean Coulton and Kurtis Gill, but Gate pulled one back on the half hour mark through Samuel Farron, and secured a great point with a dramatic 90th minute equaliser from Luke Walker. Bootle’s form continues to stutter at an important stage of the season, they have won just two of their last six.
Bacup Borough and Ashton Athletic both secured important wins in their fight against relegation. Bacup beat AFC Blackpool 1-0 away with a first half Haydn Paul strike. Athletic were 3-1 winners over Wigan Robin Park at home, Connor Gately with a brace and a Paul Hynes penalty with their goals. Those results leave Bacup in 19th on 22 points, and Ashton Athletic in 18th on 23 points, they are four and five points clear of the relegation zone respectively.
Glossop North End continued their recent upturn in form with the biggest win of the night. A 6-2 thrashing of AFC Liverpool lifted them to 10th. Goals from Dean McGregor, Nathan Bond and Ben Connolly followed a hat-trick from Mark Battersby who increased his goal tally to 25 for the season. John Lawless’ double proved to be in vain for AFC Liverpool as they stay in 16th.
Monday 18th February 2013 – NWCFL Premier Division
Runcorn Town 1-1 St. Helens Town
Tuesday 19th February 2013 – NWCFL Premier Division
AFC Blackpool 0-1 Bacup Borough
Ashton Athletic 3-1 Wigan Robin Park
Bootle 2-2 Squires Gate
Colne 0-1 Barnoldswick Town
Glossop North End 6-2 AFC Liverpool
Winsford United 0-0 Maine Road
Following a weekend of mixed League Challenge Cup and League action, we are back to a midweek schedule of purely NWCFL Premier Division football.
There are seven fixtures this week, starting with some Monday night football at Runcorn Town, as they face St. Helens Town.
Both sides are fighting battles at different ends of the table, Runcorn beat Colne 5-3 on Saturday to go top of the league, and have the opportunity to extend their lead. St. Helens moved out of the relegation zone at the weekend, but it is difficult to imagine them getting anything from the game at Pavilions tonight. Runcorn Town won the first meeting of the season 2-0 back in September.
The most intriguing match-up on Tuesday night looks to be Winsford United vs Maine Road. Road will be desperate for a win to keep tracks with Runcorn Town in first place, but it will be difficult at Barton Stadium. Winsford lost at home to Glossop last Tuesday to end an eight game unbeaten run in the league, Runcorn Town will be hoping for a favour from their Cheshire counterparts.
Sixth-placed Colne have not won in three games, and face another tricky fixture at home to Barnoldswick Town. Both teams lost at the weekend, Colne to Runcorn Town, and Barnoldswick to Division One Formby in the League Challenge Cup. Each team needs to rebound with a win to keep up their slim chances of promotion.
The biggest crowd of the week should be at Surrey Street, where Glossop North End face AFC Liverpool. Glossop rank second in the NWCFL Premier Division with an average attendance of 157, and AFC Liverpool always travel well. The away side are coming off an impressive 2-0 win away at Alsager at the weekend to get them in to the last eight of the Cup. Glossop won the reverse fixture 2-1 back in September.
Squires Gate dropped in to the relegation zone after a loss at home to Stone Dominoes on Saturday. They have lost their five games without scoring a goal, and it doesn’t get any easier for them, as they travel to Delta Taxi Stadium on Tuesday to face Bootle. The two sides met just two weeks ago, when Bootle ran out 4-0 winners, the Bucks will be confident of another win as they try to use their games in hand to catch up in the race for promotion.
Ashton Athletic will be hoping they can pull away from the relegation zone when they welcome Wigan Robin Park to Brocstedes Park on Tuesday. Athletic are in 18th, three points clear of the bottom two, but have played more games than both Bacup Borough in 19th and St. Helens Town in 20th.
Bacup Borough themselves will be looking to gain some vital points in the battle against relegation, they are two points clear of the drop zone and will travel to 15th-placed AFC Blackpool on Tuesday night. Borough have lost their last six league games but a good win over Division One leaders AFC Darwen in the Cup on Saturday should give them confidence heading in to this game. AFC Blackpool have not won in their last three, but will see this as an opportunity to get back on track.
Monday 18th February 2013 – NWCFL Premier Division
Runcorn Town vs St. Helens Town
Tuesday 19th February 2013 – NWCFL Premier Division
AFC Blackpool vs Bacup Borough
Ashton Athletic vs Wigan Robin Park
Bootle vs Squires Gate
Colne vs Barnoldswick Town
Glossop North End vs AFC Liverpool
Winsford United vs Maine Road
Just like the Champions’ League, the North West Counties Football League Challenge Cup makes its long-awaited February return after being on hiatus since before Christmas.
We reach the third round stage this weekend, with 16 teams left in the competition. The League have confirmed this week that for the remainder of the season, each League Cup game will be played to a finish, including extra time and penalties.
The lack of replays should help ease fixture congestion for clubs later down the line this season, and it will also mean that by Saturday evening, we will have our quarter-final line-up complete (barring postponements).
For the clubs that have been knocked out of the competition at earlier stages, there have been five Premier Division games arranged, meaning all but one of the 22 clubs in the Premier Division will be playing this weekend. Ashton Athletic are the unlucky ones, with the odd number of top flight sides in the third round meaning that one club had to miss out.
Congleton vs Maine Road is arguably the tie of the round, with two of the better teams in the Premier Division going head to head. Maine Road lost in the final to Bacup Borough last year and will be keen to go one step further this time. The League and Cup double still remains a real possibility for Road.
Winsford United travel to Runcorn Linnets for the third time this season in what is sure to be a feisty Cheshire derby. Linnets are the form team in the NWCFL, having won their last six games, and will be keen to get one over their local rivals. Winsford won both previous meetings at Millbank Linnets Stadium this season 3-1.
Alsager are targeting a crowd of 200 for their home cup tie against AFC Liverpool, assistant manager Stuart Heeps launched the Target 200 scheme to increase footfall at the LAW Training Stadium, they are averaging 86 this season so it will be interesting to see the attendance on Saturday.
The only other all-Premier Division tie is at Padiham where they welcome AFC Blackpool, a game the home side will be confident of winning.
There will be a few Division One sides looking to cause upsets, the best chance of which may well be AFC Darwen, who sit in first place of Division One, they travel to Bacup Borough, 19th in the Premier Division. But with only four places separating them, a Darwen win may come of no surprise at all.
Division One’s Formby will provide a tough test for Barnoldswick, the Squirrels have only lost one league game this season. West Didsbury and Chorlton will have to be at their best to get a result away at Premier Division high-flyers Bootle, the draw for the last eight takes place at Delta Taxi Stadium following this game, and the Bucks will be confident that they will be in the hat.
It is a certainty that there will be at least one Division One side in the quarter final, as Abbey Hey welcome Cheadle Town in the final tie of the day. The home side sit in second place, and have won their last four games, seventh-placed Cheadle have a tough match-up on their hands.
Colne against Runcorn Town is the marquee fixture of the Premier Division this weekend, as both sides will look to take advantage of the fact that many of the teams around them will be playing in the Cup.
There are some important ‘basement battles’ this weekend, with Stone Dominoes looking for just their second win of the season away at 20th placed Squires Gate. St. Helens Town will be looking to move out of the relegation zone too, as they face Silsden in a winnable game.
Both the Wigan Robin Park vs Stockport Sports and Glossop North End vs Norton United games have all the makings of two mid-season mid-table clashes. Every one of these teams will have to have a drastic change in form to get caught in either the relegation battle or promotion race.
NWCFL Challenge Cup – Third Round
Abbey Hey vs Cheadle Town
Alsager Town vs AFC Liverpool
Bacup Borough vs AFC Darwen
Barnoldswick Town vs Formby
Bootle vs West Didsbury and Chorlton
Congleton Town vs Maine Road
Padiham vs AFC Blackpool
Runcorn Linnets vs Winsford United
NWCFL Premier Division
Colne vs Runcorn Town
Glossop North End vs Norton United
Squires Gate vs Stone Dominoes
St. Helens Town vs Silsden
Wigan Robin Park vs Stockport Sports