Lytham CC captain Dom O’Brien hasn’t ruled out a top-four finish but admits his side are still in a Liverpool Competition relegation battle.
It’s been a disappointing season for the Church Road side, spent mostly in the lower half of the ECB premier league, but Lytham halted a run of defeats with a battling home draw – which was just a handful of runs from being a win – against leaders Northern last Saturday.
Now Australian O’Brien wants to build on that in the final four games to ease lingering fears and propel his side up the table, starting at Bootle tomorrow.
“It’s been a very mixed season and we’ve struggled to build momentum,” O’Brien told The Gazette.
“Climbing the table will be tough but four wins could get us into the top four, though we are certainly not clear of relegation either.”
Fifty points separate Lytham from the bottom two, but with 20 for a win nothing is cut and dried. O’Brien added: “We have a strong group of young players. The season has been challenging for them but their confidence is high, so hopefully we can finish strongly.”
And O’Brien, who is approaching 4,000 runs for the club and has scored 624 in the league this season, hopes the performance against Northern can act as a turning point for the run-in.
Last week’s draw was all the more admirable for being achieved without their Lancashire paceman Toby Lester, who has taken 50 wickets for Lytham this season. Another key player in the remaining weeks is likely to be wicketkeeper Gary Knight, who has scored 500 runs.
“We still have to play teams above us, so there’s a good chance to climb the table,” said O’Brien.
While Lytham prepare for one big game this weekend, their neighbours in the Northern League face at least two.
It’s a double-header bank holiday weekend as the title race hots up, with Monday’s derby clash between Fleetwood and Blackpool the obvious eye-catcher.
Before then, leaders Blackpool must negotiate two matches against Netherfield, in the league tomorrow and in the Readers Cup semi-finals 24 hours later – the winners face Lancaster in the final on Sunday week.
Third-placed Fleetwood warm up for Monday’s derby with a trip to Preston tomorrow.
St Annes have two home games over the holiday weekend. They welcome Penrith to Vernon Road tomorrow and Chorley on Monday.
Garstang are celebrating glory in the Palace Shield’s Meyler Cup and are dreaming of a league and cup double.
They won a rain-affected cup final at Vernon Carus on a faster run-rate, reaching 153-1 in pursuit of 196-0.
Standing third in the premier division, Garstang are very much in contention for the double heading into tomorrow’s crunch clash away to leaders Fulwood and Broughton.
Northern Premier League: Barrow v Morecambe, Lancaster v Kendal, Leyland v Chorley, Netherfield v Blackpool, Preston v Fleetwood, St Annes v Penrith.
Liverpool Competition ECB premier league: Bootle v Lytham
Moore and Smalley SE+ Palace Shield
Premier division: Fulwood and Broughton v Garstang, Fylde v Croston, Penwortham v Whittingham and Goosnargh, Thornton Cleveleys v Freckleton, Torrisholme v Longridge, Vernon Carus v Great Eccleston
Division One: Garstang 2 v BAC/EE Preston, Kirkham and Wesham v Vernon Carus 2, Longridge 2 v Norcross, Rufford v Eccleston, White Coppice v Hoghton, Withnell Fold v Fulwood and Broughton 2.
Division Two: Great Eccleston 2 v Thornton Cleveleys 2, Gregson Lane v Penwotham 2, Mawdesley v Wrea Green , New Longton v Tarleton, Walton-le-Dale v South Shore, Whittle and Clayton-le-Woods v Blackpool 3