Garstang CC skipper enjoys life in the Northern Premier Cricket League

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Garstang CC skipper Mark Walling believes the close-knit nature of this season’s Northern Premier Cricket League shows how competitive a competition it is.

With nine games of the season remaining, Walling’s players sit second in the table but only five points adrift of Leyland.

They lead the way with 151 points, followed by Garstang (146), Netherfield (135) and Fleetwood (133).

“It seems to be that if you get 15 points in a game and someone around you doesn’t, you can move up two or three places pretty quickly,” Walling acknowledged.

“We were sixth in the table for five or six weeks, then we won three on the bounce and jumped up to third.

“We have to keep making sure that we perform because, if we have an off-day, there are plenty of teams who can punish you.”

Last year’s champions, Blackpool, currently sit sixth in the division after leapfrogging Longridge last weekend.

Even more surprisingly, St Annes – who finished third last season – are second-bottom of the table, 27 points from safety, and without a win this time around.

At the other end of the table, Garstang have strung together an excellent run of wins to push themselves well into the title battle in only their second season as a Northern League club.

They did it the hard way last weekend, however, only beating Fleetwood in the battle of second against third by capturing the final wicket off the last ball.

It sets them up perfectly for this Saturday’s trip to Blackpool, a side who inflicted a heavy defeat upon Walling’s players in the reverse fixture earlier this season.

Nevertheless, Walling is under no illusion as to the scale of the task facing them at the weekend – and for the rest of the season.

“St Annes is a real surprise given that they finished third last year,” Walling said.

“Everyone seems to have strengthened and Fulwood and Broughton have added a new dimension to their game this year with (leg-spinner) Simon Kerrigan bowling.

“Obviously Longridge have come up and have done really well so far, so it’s made it an exciting league to be part of.”