Five things we learned - Gameweek 34

Wed 22nd March 2023 | Five Things
By Jay Cooper

1. The Shakers stake their claim

For a long time in these lists, the major talking point surrounding Bury AFC was their high number of game rearrangements and games in hand. However, with crunch time in the season now upon us, it might just be time to start considering them as potentially the favourites for the NWCFL Premier Division title.

The Shakers currently sit 11 point behind league leaders Avro, but they do have 6, count 'em, 6 games in hand on their rivals. And, after their gritty, last-minute away winner against local rivals Prestwich Heys last weekend (a game I had the good fortune to attend), it's hard to see who can break Andy Welsh's resilient side.


2. Confirmation for Ashton Athletic

Going into the weekend, NWCFL Prem bottom side Ashton Athletic knew that anything other than a win would see them mathematically unable to escape the drop zone. Lo and behold, a 5-0 home defeat to Litherland REMYCA was enough to seal their unfortunate fate.

However, it's thematic that Litherland were the team to get that result, as they themselves were in the same position as Ashton this time last season. They turned their fortunes around, however, and avoided relegation by reprieve, as they finished above Runcorn Town. Well, 2nd-bottom Burscough are only 8 points away...


3. Pilks pull away

Goals from Adam Neill and Callum Laird in their 2-0 victory over Nelson at the weekend has seen Pilkington, already league leaders in the First Division North, climb to 68 points from 29 games, with only 5 left in their calendar in the league.

Despite 3rd-placed Euxton Villa also winning at the weekend, they can no longer catch Pilks, regardless of how the rest of the season plays out. This means the only team that Stephen Palfrey's side have to worry about overtaking them on points as the campaign closes is Chadderton, who can cut the 5 point gap to 2 if they win their game in hand. Basically, nothing is totally decided yet.


4. First Division North play-off pit fight

There's a reason I specified that Pilks can't be overtaken on points in the First Division North in the last entry, and that's because they can still technically be caught up to on points by both 4th-placed Ilkely Town and even 6th-placed Holker Old Boys, both of whom have played less games than the leaders.

However, that fact tells its own interesting tale, as while neither team are likely to usurp Pilks to the title, they are still very much in the thick of things in the race for the play-offs. Nothing is assured for Euxton Villa in 3rd place, or FC St. Helens in 5th, and even 7th-placed Steeton are not worth counting out as of now, being only 6 points away from the dotted line.


5. Foley Meir are teetering

In the First Division South, Rocester were confirmed as relegated before the weekend, subject to a reprieve. The same, however, cannot be said of Foley Meir at this moment, although they do look unfortunately close to being in the conversation, given the current standings.

With only 5 games remaining, Foley need to win at least 4 and hope other results go their way to have a chance at avoiding being involved in the decision of a potential reprieve. Their remaining games also include play-off place occupants Sandbach United, and they will finish the season against title-chasing Wythenshawe Amateurs. A tough test indeed.


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