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.
For the first time in a number of weeks, we don’t have a big top of the table clash in the fixture schedule for the North West Counties Premier Division. For the biggest game of the weekend, focus switches to the bottom of the table.
Squires Gate host St.Helens Town in a huge six-pointer. Gate sit in 21st, two points behind St. Helens, meaning a win would move them out of the relegation zone. The formbook suggests St. Helens may get a result, they have won two of their last six whereas Gate have failed to win in any of their last six games. The two teams will play again in three weeks’ time so a win in this first meeting is crucial.
League leaders Padiham travel to Norton United in a battle between two teams that were punished by the League this week. Norton had three points deducted for fielding an ineligible player, and Padiham were thrown out of the League Challenge Cup for the same offence. Padiham haven’t lost in the League since November 10th and have won four of their last five. They are putting an impressive run together that they will expect to continue that at Norton.
Bacup Borough welcome Maine Road to Brian Boys West View Stadium with both teams fighting at opposite ends of the table. Bacup are four points clear of the relegation zone and have the chance to pull away from Squires Gate and St. Helens with those two teams playing each other. Maine Road will be full of confidence after coming off a mid-week 6-1 win over Alsager Town, they can regain top spot if they win and Padiham fail to do so.
Runcorn Town travel to Congleton Town as they look to keep pace with the league leaders. Padiham are four points clear of Runcorn Town, with both teams having played 27 games. Runcorn will believe they get a win in this Cheshire derby, they have one of the best away records in the league and Congleton’s form is beginning to suffer, they have won just one of their last six.
Ashton Athletic are still far from safe, they lie five points clear of the relegation zone but have played more games than three of the four teams below them. They face a tough trip to Winsford United on Saturday, the home side are coming off a good 3-0 win at Glossop on Tuesday and will be looking at their next two games of Ashton Athletic and Stone Dominoes at home as an opportunity to pick up points in quick succession.
Fourth-placed Bootle are seven points behind Padiham with two games in hand heading in to this weekend and they will be confident of another three points at home to AFC Blackpool on Saturday. Bootle followed up last week’s impressive win at Maine Road with another win in midweek, winning 3-0 away at Ashton Athletic. They may be getting in to form at just the right time.
Speaking of teams that are in form, Runcorn Linnets have propelled themselves to fifth after an unbeaten run that has lasted for ten games. They travel to Stockport Sports, a game that sees the team bottom of the form table host the team at the top. Linnets have the chance to go fourth if they win and Bootle fail to beat AFC Blackpool, this run of form has them getting more and more involved in the promotion race each week.
Barnoldswick Town are another team just outside that promotion chasing pack. They have a winnable game at home to Wigan Robin Park. The travelling side lost their prolific goalscorer Phil Howard to Runcorn Town this week but a win here would calm any worries their fans have about that. Barnoldswick won the reverse fixture 1-0 back in October, a repeat performance could see them as high as fourth depending on other results.
A few weeks ago, Colne looked set for a title push, but after a run of five games without a win they have drifted away and find themselves in ninth. This weekend they travel to Glossop North End, who themselves have hit a patchy run. In the first meeting between the two teams back in September, Colne emerged 3-1 winners, something they will be eager to replicate here.
Stone Dominoes are running out of time to put a run of results together if they are to survive the drop as they sit ten points adrift of safety. They have a chance of a positive result this weekend though when they face 16th-placed Silsden at home. Silsden have the worst away record in the league, having won one, drawn one and lost 11 of their games on the road so far this year.
Alsager Town will be hurting after that 6-1 loss at Maine Road on Monday night, they will be looking for a response when they travel to AFC Liverpool. The two teams met just a couple of weeks ago in the League Challenge Cup and AFC Liverpool won that game 2-0, they are in good form too, having lost just one of their last six, and may prove just too strong for Alsager again.
Saturday 2nd March 2013 – NWCFL Premier Division
AFC Liverpool vs Alsager Town
Bacup Borough vs Maine Road
Barnoldswick Town vs Wigan Robin Park
Bootle vs AFC Blackpool
Congleton Town vs Runcorn Town
Glossop North End vs Colne
Norton United vs Padiham
Squires Gate vs St. Helens Town
Stockport Sports vs Runcorn Linnets
Stone Dominoes vs Silsden
Winsford United vs Ashton Athletic
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