Weekend cricket preview: Eyes on the skies for Blackpool captain
It could hardly be tighter with three weekends of Northern Premier League matches to play.
Second-placed Blackpool (221 points), who lost valuable ground with Monday’s defeat at Fleetwood but crucially have a match in hand, are at home to St Annes tomorrow, while new leaders Leyland (232) travel to Kendal.
Fleetwood (210 points) loiter with serious intent in third and are at home to sixth-placed Netherfield.
Blackpool skipper Paul Danson is pondering selection options for the derby match, while anxiously looking at the weather forecast, which could yet have a vital bearing.
Danson told The Gazette: “We will be looking to strike the right balance in the team. The forecast keeps changing – at first it looked as though the Fylde coast would escape the worst of the wet weather, but last time I looked we would get the rain and Cumbria might not get it as bad. But there is nothing we can do about the weather.”
Lancashire skipper Steven Croft was in the Blackpool team beaten for only the second time this season by Fleetwood but he won’t figure again because of county commitments.
There is no chance either of Northants’ Richard Gleeson making return to Stanley Park during the run-in. The seamer’s season has been ended by the side strain that forced him to miss the Steelbacks’ NatWest T20 Bash triumph.
Even so, Danson is convinced his side has the personnel to claim the title for a second time in three seasons.
He said: “It was very disappointing to lose to Fleetwood, but we were playing on a used wicket and didn’t bat or field well enough.
“Adam Parker showed what a good player he was by scoring a half-century in difficult conditions for Fleetwood but we dropped him a few times – none were easy chances but you can’t afford to make mistakes like that
“Although Fleetwood needed 99 to win, we made them fight all the way and that shows the kind of team spirit we have.”
Pacesetters Leyland and Blackpool are set to meet on the final day (September 17) for what could prove a title decider. Danson said: “It could all hinge on that match but we can’t look that far ahead.
“We have St Annes on Saturday and we know what we have to do. They beat us this season and have a good young side coming through under Matt Grindley.”
Leyland skipper David Makinson believes his side have the upper hand in the title battle ... but only just!
Makinson said: “Blackpool have a game in hand, so it looks likely we will have to beat them to win the title but the weather could still play a big part yet.
“We have had two abandonments this season and Blackpool one. The frustrating thing is that in one of those we had Preston 80-odd all out. Had we won that game we’d be in a really strong position now. You just hope it evens out over the season.”
Northern Premier League first division: Blackpool v St Annes, Chorley v Barrow, Fleetwood v Netherfield, Kendal v Leyland, Morecambe v Darwen, Penrith v Lancaster
Liverpool Competition ECB Premier League: Wallasey v Lytham
Moore and Smalley SE+ Palace Shield Premier division: Croston v Fulwood and Broughton, Freckleton v Penwortham, Garstang v Fylde, Great Eccleston v Torrisholme, Longridge v Vernon Carus, Whittingham and Goosnargh v Thornton Cleveleys.
Division one: BAC/Ee Preston v White Coppice, Eccleston v Withnell Fold, Fulwood and Broughton 2 v Rufford, Hoghton v Garstang 2, Norcross v Kirkham and Wesham, Vernon Carus 2 v Longridge 2
Division two: Blackpool 3 v Mawdesley, Penwortham 2 v Great Eccleston 2, South Shore v New Longton, Tarleton v Walton-le-Dale, Thornton Cleveleys 2 v Gregson Lane, Wrea Green v Whittle and Clayton-le-Woods.