It’s another massive weekend in the Northern Premier League, with Blackpool and Fleetwood occupying the top two places.
While leaders Blackpool travel to champions Morecambe, Fleetwood are at Darwen.
And though there is still plenty of cricket left to play, both clubs could be excused for looking ahead already to an important match at the end of next month.
Bank Holiday Monday on August 29 sees the Fylde coast sides collide aat Stanley Park, and it is a match that could be of crucial importance in the destination of the title, as Fleetwood mainstay Adam Parker readily testifies.
Parker, who played an important role in Fleetwood’s Lukey’s Sports T20 triumph last Sunday, said: “It is always a huge match anyway, a derby played on a bank holiday, but it is one that we will look forward to with a lot at stake.”
By the time of the meeting with Blackpool, Fleetwood will have said goodbye to Australian professional Travis Dean, who is leaving Broadwater a few days prior to the Stanley Park encounter to link up with the Australian A side.
Dean’s team-mate Parker said: “Travis came to us with a huge reputation, after having had such a fantastic season in Australia, and there was a lot of pressure on him.
“There was an expectation, not just at the club but in the league as a whole for him to succeed and there is a big difference playing on the wet wickets over here compared to what he has been used to at home at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
“But he has done fantastically well for us, both on and off the field.
“He is down at the club every day and he has been a big help to our youngsters.
“We have known for some time that Travis would not be available for the final few weeks, so we have been able to make contingency plans.
“That will probably mean bringing in a replacement (pro) and it could be someone from the Lancashire League, who will be available then because they play most of their matches on a Sunday.
“We will have a good idea what we need to do to win the league by the time we play Blackpool, even if they are able to call on people like Steven Croft and Richard Gleeson.
“It’s good to face up to a challenge like that and test yourself.”
The experienced Parker sees the title race being fought out between the sides currently occupying the leading five positions.
Immediately on the horizon for Fleetwood is tomorrow’s trip to Darwen, who are propping up the division.
Fleetwood will go into the match as firm favourites but Parker counselled: “Darwen is always a tough place to go because conditions can often suit their players, but we will have got confidence from beating them in the T20 semi-final and that is something that we can build on.
“We have played a lot of the leading sides, and although we have not always beaten them we have been on top and got winning draws.”
Dom O’Brien’s Lytham side welcome New Brighton to Church Road on Saturday, hoping to build on last weekend’s excellent victory over Liverpool competition leaders Leigh.
Lytham have also won through to Sunday’s finals day in the NatWest Club T20 at Ormskirk.
Having eliminated Formby and Birkenhead Park, Lytham will face hosts Ormskirk in the second semi-final.
The other semi pits New Brighton against Northern, with the final to follow on the same day.
St Annes had no fixture last weekend – a fortunate Saturday off as all but two matches in the top flight of the Northern Premier League were rained off.
Matches that did go ahead saw Blackpool take over at the top with a Steven Croft-assisted victory in their match against Darwen.
Blackpool face another of the first division’s struggling sides tomorrow as they visit Morecambe.
St Annes are scheduled for a double bill against Lancaster this weekend.
Matt Grindley’s side head for Lune Road in the league on Saturday.
The clubs are then due to meet again at Vernon Road in the quarter-finals of the Readers Cup the following day.
St Annes had a first-round bye, whereas Lancaster won through with a three-wicket victory over Leyland last Sunday.
Northern Premier Cricket League
First division: Barrow v Preston, Chorley v Penrith, Darwen v Fleetwod, Lancaster v St Annes, Leyland v Netherfield, Morecambe v Blackpool (fixtures in reverse for second XIs).
ECB Premier League: Lytham v New Brighton
Moore and Smalley SE+ Palace Shield:
Premier Division: Fulwood & Broughton v Whittingham & Goosnargh, Fylde v Freckleton, Penwortham v Longridge, Thornton Cleveleys v Great Eccleston, Torrisholme v Garstang, Vernon Carus v Croston.
Division One: Garstang 2 v Norcross, Kirkham & Wesham v Eccleston, Longridge 2 v Fulwood & Broughton 2, Rufford v Hoghton, White Coppice v Vernon Carus 2, Withnell Fold v BAC/EE Preston 2
Division Two: Great Eccleston 2 v Tarleton, Mawdesley v Thornton Cleveleys 2, New Longton v Wrea Green, Walton-le-Dale v Blackpool 3, Whittle & Clayton-le-Woods v Penwortham 2
NatWest Club T20 semi-finals: Ormskirk v Lytham, New Brighton v Northern
North West Counties League Readers Cup quarter-final: St Annes v Lancaster
Moore & Smalley SE+ Palace Shield
Meyler Cup: Eccleston v Garstang, Thronton Cleveleys v Vernon Carus
Loxham Cup: Longridge 2 v Mawdesley, Vernon Carus 2 v Thornton Cleveleys 2,
Crabtree Cup: Darwen 3 v Blackpool 3, Longridge 3 v Penwortham 3