Fylde coast cricket preview: Neels Bergh ready for derby test in Fleetwood title chase

Neels Bergh (left) feels Fleetwood will need to win all their remaining games to be crowned champions
Neels Bergh (left) feels Fleetwood will need to win all their remaining games to be crowned champions

It’s the business end of the Northern Premier League cricket season and club professional Neels Bergh believes Fleetwood can take the title for the first time since 2012 if their form and the weather hold up.

Fleetwood stand third, 18 points behind leaders Leyland, who they visit next weekend. But first is tomorrow’s derby clash at a resurgent St Annes.

With defending champions Blackpool a 23 further back in fifth place with five games to play, the best chance of the title remaining on the Fylde coast surely rests with Fleetwood.

However, tomorrow’s hosts St Annes have discovered some late-season form and still need points themselves.

Victories in their last two completed matches have lifted the Vernon Road club out of the bottom two, though they are only two points clear of second-bottom Penrith, who host Blackpool tomorrow.

And for South African Bergh, St Annes’ struggles this season are a sign of how the league has improved.

He told The Gazette: “It’s that time of season now and we have a shot. We’ll probably have to win everything from here on to finish top and to do that we need to get on the pitch, so the weather will be important.

“St Annes are a better side than they have played this season. We’ve beaten them a few times this season but they have the players to beat anyone.

“It’s weird to think they are at the bottom because in the three years I’ve been here they have been contenders.

“That probably tells you that the standard is improving. In my first season there was a clear gap between the top teams and the rest but that isn’t the case now.

“We’ve lost games to teams below us this season and that didn’t happen in the past.

“We’re having our best season since I’ve been here but there are no easy games any more.”

It’s a big Palace Shield weekend for Thornton Cleveleys, who visit premier division high-flyers Croston in Sunday’s Meyler Cup final following wins over Rufford, Torrisholme and Mawdesley.

TC hope to be playing in the top-flight themselves next season and tomorrow’s division one A fixture takes them to struggling Hoghton. Thornton are six points behind leaders Kirkham and Wesham with a game in hand.

SATURDAY FIXTURES

NORTHERN PREMIER LEAGUE: St Annes v Fleetwood, Penrith v Blackpool, Chorley v Garstang, Chorley v Garstang, Fulwood and Broughton v Barrow, Kendal v Longridge, Leyland v Netherfield.

LIVERPOOL COMPETITION ECB PREMIER LEAGUE: Northern v Lytham

MOORE AND SMALLEY PALACE SHIELD PREMIER DIVISION: Great Eccleston v Morecambe, South Shore v New Longton, Lancaster v Fylde, Preston v Croston, Standish v Penwortham, Vernon Carus v Eccleston

DIVISION 1A: Grimsargh v Norcross, Hoghton v Thornton Cleveleys, Tarleton v Kirkham and Wesham, Rufford v Whittle and Clayton-le-Woods, Withnell Fold v Torrisholme

Lancashire look to avenge their only defeat in 10 Vitality Blast fixtures this season as they welcome Birmingham Bears to Old Trafford tonight.

Lightning bounced back from Sunday’s defeat with an eight-wicket win at Northamptonshire on Wednesday, when Alex Davies scored an unbeaten 75 as Lancashire strengthened their grip on the north group.

Davies said: “They were probably under par (157-7). It’s a good place to chase and we managed to get off to a flier.

“Sunday we weren’t at our best in any facet but it gave us a bit of a shock and we’ll try and gain some momentum.”