Saturday’s fixtures throw up some very interesting clashes in the Northern Premier League in relation to the positions the clubs hold in the table and none more so than the top end of the table clash at Billingham, where the third-placed home side, on 64 points, take on second-placed Blaydon who are on 65 points. Back on October 20th Billingham posted a narrow 18-14 win at Blaydon and will be very keen to improve on that but their recent form has not been too impressive. They totally collapsed when Hull beat them 49-7 on December 8th whilst on January 5th Hull only beat Blaydon by 16-14 with the Geordies almost winning in the dying seconds in what was our toughest game of the season so far.
Alnwick v Ilkley sees 6th play 7th with the visitors on 51 points and the hosts on 51 points and with Ilkley losing 32-8 in the corresponding game on October 20th they will not be confident of turning the tables on a side who are hard to beat at home having only lost twice on their own turf so far.
A vital relegation battle in on the cards at Lymm when Kirkby Lonsdale come a-visiting the village in a game where 11th take on 10th. The game at KLon on October20th saw the home side scrape a very narrow 19-15 win. KLon have an 8 point lead in the league table but Lymm just beat whipping-boys Wilmslow by 20-8 in their last home game and will be eager to get nearer safety with another victory.
Another tight game could be at eighth-placed Rossendale entertain fifth-placed Wirral. Nine league points separate the two side with Wirral hoping to build on their tremendous 27-10 home win over Billingham in their last game and Rossendale are by no means the side they were a couple of seasons ago. However, they have a remarkable record against the top three clubs in the table having beaten Hull, Blaydon and Billingham at their Marlpits ground and on their day are a match for any side in the division.
Harrogate v Kendal, where 4th play 12th should be a shoe-in for the home side who won 25-3 at Mint Bridge on October 20th and they had a resounding 54-5 win at Wilmslow in their last game. The Cumbrians will not be looking forward to their trip to North Yorkshire but they are desperate for points with only eight games remaining.
Sandal v Wilmslow should see a home win in a game where 9th meet 14th. Wilmslow have had a terrible season at the higher level and are almost certain to be relegated back to North West One and with Sandal winning the corresponding game at Wilmslow by 46-29 they should prove too strong for the Cheshire side.
A cynic would say that Vale of Lune are in a similar position to Wilmslow when they come to the Ferens Ground. However, Vale are on 24 points and have a better, if slim, chance of avoiding the drop. Hull are where they are and Vale are where they are and the difference is vast. Hull won 41-5 at Powderhouse Lane in the corresponding game and are unbeaten at home this season, but they will show Vale of Lune the greatest respect on Saturday as they do every side they play.