Following the shock defeat of Billingham by 17-5 at Lonsdale last week, which confirmed Hull as champions of the Northern Premier League with four games in hand, thoughts must now turn to who will finish as runners-up and who will be relegated. In this week’s fixtures both second-placed Blaydon and fourth-placed Billingham have very easy home fixtures and the spot-light must first shine on third-placed Harrogate who entertain the new champions at the Stratstone Stadium.
Back on the 24th of November a very close and hard game at the Ferens Ground saw Hull post a narrow 20-14 win and as history shows that most games between the two clubs are close run affairs there is no need to suppose that this game will be any different. ‘Gate have hit form at the right time and have won their last five games but Hull are on a massive twenty-one win run and victory on Saturday would create a new club record which has stood since the 2003-04 season. They will be in no mood to relax now the title is theirs but at the same time they can expect a warm reception in more ways than one.
Billingham are at home to second from bottom Vale of Lune who are almost certain to be relegated in a fixture which should give Billingham an excellent chance to put last week’s result behind them by posting a big win. The same can be said of Blaydon who have won five of their last six games, their only slip-up being a 24-22 defeat at Billingham during that period. Wilmslow are already relegated, having lost 19 of their 22 games so far and look to be on the wrong end of another big defeat in this game.
The remaining four games are a little harder to predict and we begin with eleventh-placed Lymm who are at home to ninth-placed Ilkley who are quite capable of winning this game. It could be classed as mid-table battle with both sides confident of retaining their league status for next season but with the only doubt being who will finish highest. Rossendale v Kirkby Lonsdale sees seventh play tenth is very similar and KLon will be keen to prove that their win over Billingham last week was no fluke. Ross are still a formidable side on their own ground and could expect to post a victory over the Cumbrians albeit maybe a small one.
Sandal v Alnwick could go either way when sixth take on eighth but following Sandal’s 69-14 win at Vale of Lune they have a little roll on, having won their last four games in fine style, scoring 193 points against 62 in the process, and although Alnwick are a tough side to beat home advantage should prove decisive. Finally, fifth-placed Wirral at home to twelfth-placed Kendal should see the home side shake off their 47-34 shock defeat at Wilmslow last week and put the final nail in Kendal’s relegation coffin.
In conclusion, although the runners-up play-off place has still yet to be decided, if both Vale of Lune and Kendal lose their games on Saturday they will both join Wilmslow as the three relegated clubs. That should cause some geographical problems for the league secretary of North West One during the close season!!