We only have a couple of weeks left in the North West Counties Premier Division season, and it looks as if we are in for a great finish at both ends of the table.
At the top there are still five teams in with a chance of promotion, but let’s switch our attention to the bottom of the table. The fight against relegation is proving to be as dramatic as ever, Stone Dominoes are already certain to go down, meaning it will be one of Squires Gate, Ashton Athletic, St. Helens Town or Silsden that will have the misfortune to occupy the final relegation place.
Bacup Borough could still technically go down too, but with them lying seven points clear of the relegation zone with at least four games in hand over all of their rivals, you would like to imagine they will be safe.
Just like in the Race for Promotion article on the website a few weeks ago, let’s take a look at the run-in for each of the clubs battling to stay in the league, as well as predicting the final results (shown in italic next to the fixtures) just as a gauge to I think the table might end up.
Gate are the team that currently sit in that dreaded final relegation place, they are on 29 points – level with Ashton Athletic who lie one place above them. They have played a game more than Ashton Athletic, and the two teams meet tonight at Athletic’s Brocstedes Park in a huge game.
Gate are struggling at the moment, having picked up only two points from their last five games, but they did record a good draw at home to fifth-placed Winsford United on Saturday.
They have three games remaining, all of which are away, so if they lose to Ashton Athletic tonight you struggle to see Squires Gate getting out of this.
23.04.13 (A) Ashton Athletic – Draw
27.04.13 (A) Bacup Borough – Draw
01.05.13 (A) AFC Liverpool – Loss
Ahead of their biggest game of the season tonight, Athletic are not in the form they would like to be – their last win came on the 9th of March and they have failed to win any of their last six games.
Three of their last four fixtures are at home which gives them advantage, especially when you take in to account their awful away record; they have lost 16 away from home this season, the joint-highest in the League.
Although Athletic and Squires Gate have the same points total, Athletic have a better goal difference at -36 compared to Gate’s -43, so a draw tonight would not be a bad result for Athletic, but a win would give them much more confidence of avoiding the drop.
23.04.13 (H) Squires Gate – Draw
27.04.13 (H) Padiham – Loss
29.04.13 (A) Bacup Borough – Win
04.05.13 (H) AFC Blackpool – Loss
St. Helens are currently 19th, one place and one point above Ashton Athletic with four games left to play.
Their next three games are at home and they need to take advantage of that, if they can pick up four points from those fixtures, which is very achievable, then they should be safe.
Although their form is not great (winning two of their last six games), it is actually the best of the four teams being discussed in this article. Taking that, and their fixtures, into account, I think Saints may live to fight another year in the Division.
25.04.13 (H) Glossop North End – Draw
27.04.13 (H) Stone Dominoes – Win
04.05.13 (H) Bootle – Loss
06.04.13 (A) Bacup Borough – Loss
Silsden sit in 18th on 33 points, and although that is four points clear of the relegation zone, they have a real danger of being dragged in to the mix with only two games remaining.
If teams below them pick up points over the next couple of weeks and they fail to do so, then they could be in trouble.
Their final two fixtures are at home but are not easy by any means, they face Alsager Town and Runcorn Linnets, and could easily lose both. One win should be enough to keep them up, but they have not done that for eight games.
27.04.13 (H) Alsager Town – Draw
04.05.13 (H) Runcorn Linnets – Loss
Final Predictions Table
Going off my predictions this is how the bottom of the table will finish, although anything is possible in this League.
18. St Helens Town – 34 points
19. Silsden – 34 points
20. Ashton Athletic – 33 points
21. Squires Gate – 31 points
Appearance – 2/5
Facilities – 2/5
Parking – 2/5
Refreshments – 3/5
Edge Green Street is currently used by two North West Counties sides, it is owned by Division One’s Ashton Town, but has been shared with Premier Division outfit St. Helens Town since 2010.
As long as you know where you’re going, the ground is fairly easy to get to. It is located just off junction 23 of the M6 in Ashton-in-Makerfield near Wigan.
The town itself is easy to navigate but the ground is located down a small backstreet, it is not signposted and you have to look out for the ‘Edge Green Street’ road sign. With a SatNav it will be simple, but without one you may struggle.
Parking is not the greatest, there is a small area in the ground itself behind the goal for around ten to fifteen cars, but they risk being pummelled with wayward shots. The side street to get to the ground can accommodate around twenty cars, it is bumpy and full of potholes but an easy getaway is ensured if you find a spot here.
After paying an adult price of £5 to enter you emerge behind the goal. Down the touchline to the left are the only two stands, a small all-seated stand that must hold around 100, and another covered area with both seats (approx. 30) and steps for standing.
Both stands look like their best days are behind them, the seats have faded in the sunlight and the corrugated iron and scaffolding the stands are made from are starting to rust.
Behind the far goal is just a fence and a high net to stop balls from flying out of the ground. Down the touchline to the right are the two dugouts, and a small changing room area.
The perimeter fence around the ground leaves a lot to be desired, it is covered in either dirty tarp or weedy hedges depending on where you look.
In the corner next to the changing rooms is a small clubhouse with a bar, pool table and TV with Sky Sports, although having no windows makes it very dark inside. The bar wasn’t open when I visited but the tea hut at the far end was, and provided the usual football food.
Edge Green Street is not the best ground in the NWCFL Premier Division, but that is to be expected with it being owned by a club from the league below. It does have a good pitch though, and with a bit of housekeeping to the stands and the perimeter fence it would greatly improve.
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 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