Relegation threat makes for lively Chorley clash

Chorley's wicketkeeper Harry Barclay
Chorley's wicketkeeper Harry Barclay

If anyone doubted whether the introduction of promotion and relegation this season would liven up Northern League cricket, Saturday’s game at Windsor Park would have convinced them.

In previous years, Chorley’s final home game would have been half paced end of season stuff, with the host’s title hopes having disappeared and Lancaster nailed to the foot of the table.

But the visitors desperately needed a win to avoid the drop, and the result was a full blooded encounter so feisty it boiled over towards the end with some angry exchanges.

Thankfully, things calmed down and the game ended with Chorley hanging on for a draw, and Lancaster earning just enough points to keep their survival hopes alive.

To be honest, the quality of the cricket wasn’t top notch but the commitment of both sides made up for it.

It’s sad to see once great Lancaster in such dire straits, but from the early overs at a pleasantly warm Windsor Park, they showed they will fight tooth and nail to preserve their top flight status.

Opener Laurie Atkinson’s 47 laid the foundations and the middle order all chipped in as the visitors crept steadily to a challenging 191 for 9.

And that total seemed even more challenging when this year’s stand out performer Ed Moulton went cheaply and three colleagues quickly followed.

With skipper Andy Holdsworth sidelined with a hamstring problem, Lancaster sensed they were through a weakened home batting line up, but Alex Howarth had other ideas.

With easily his best knock since being promoted from second team captaincy duties some weeks ago, he grittily held things together and even raised some victory hopes.

But those hopes ended with his dismissal, which also sparked some unnecessary afters, and things became even more heated when Ian Oakes fell shortly afterwards.

The large, boisterous home crowd joined in the verbals which almost spilled over into something nastier.

But as the flare up died down, Jim Lee and Harry Barclay refused to be distracted and held out to earn the home side a creditable draw.

However, that result means the best Chorley can now finish is fourth.