Cricket: Last-day drama in Division Two
PROMOTION and relegation issues are still be to be decided in Division Two on the final weekend of the season.
The race to join Newcastle and Hartshill appears to be between Ashcombe Park and Alsager, who both have testing afternoons ahead.
And the relegation picture is still wide open with the bottom four sides all playing each other on what promises to be a tense day.
BIGNALL END (9th, 210pts) v RODE PARK & LAWTON (12th, 194pts)
RODE Park and Lawton breathed new life into their survival bid with victory over fellow strugglers Woore last weekend.
Skipper Steve Liburd led from the front with three wickets and an unbeaten 76 to see his side past the post.
They still sit bottom of the table, but are a mere five points from safety heading into the final weekend.
Hosts Bignall End have endured a poor run of form, with four successive defeats ensuring they are not out of the woods just yet.
They do, however, have a 12-point cushion to the drop zone, although a draw would be enough to see them to safety.
A heavy defeat, though, would leave them sweating over the Woore v Eccleshall result.
Bignall End form: WLLLL
Rode Park form: LDLLW
Prediction: Bignall End scrape a draw which is enough to preserve their status, and sends battling Rode Park and Lawton towards the exit door.
WOORE (10th, 199pts) v ECCLESHALL (11th, 198pts)
THEY won promotion together last year, and could also be relegated together if they're not careful.
Woore have won one and drawn two of their last five, while Eccleshall have fallen to five straight defeats to send them plummeting down from the sanctuary of mid-table.
Just one point now separates the pair, but both sides need a win to ensure they stay up.
Woore have shown fighting spirit in recent weeks, even though last weekend's defeat by Rode Park and Lawton was damaging.
The influence of Andy Kenvyn and Mark Bengry is key to Woore's chances.
Eccleshall, bowled out for 25 and 97 in the past fortnight, need a much-improved batting effort to give themselves a chance.
Woore form: DWLDL
Eccleshall form: LLLLL
Prediction: Woore produce a fine chase amid the last-day tension to scramble across the finishing line and send Eccleshall back into the basement division.
OULTON (6th, 223pts) v ASHCOMBE PARK (2nd, 309pts)
ASHCOMBE Park missed out on promotion late in the day last season, but have second place in their grasp heading into the final match. They are eight points clear of Alsager, in third, but face a tricky assignment to try and cross the line.
A trip to Oulton a few weeks back might not have held too many fears, but Tom Spruce's side have strung together an excellent run to survive.
Wins against struggling Rode Park and Lawton, Woore and Eccleshall came at just the right time and formed part of a five-game unbeaten run.
Ashcombe will look to the experience of Rizwan Haider, Steve Proffitt and Dave Clowes to make telling contributions tomorrow.
Oulton, with a free rein, could pose problems for their promotion-chasing rivals.
Oulton form: DWWDW
Ashcombe Park form: DWLWW
Prediction: Ashcombe Park win the toss and stick Oulton in knowing a 20-point victory is good enough. Oulton show spirit, though, but after setting a tough run chase, Park prevail with a two-wicket triumph.
STAFFORD (5th, 248pts) v ALSAGER (3rd, 301pts)
ALSAGER have refused to go away in the race for promotion, with four wins from their last five matches keeping them in the hunt.
However, they still require a win tomorrow, plus a helping hand from Oulton to leap into the top two at the 11th hour.
They are, though, in good form with Sean Price among the runs and Gareth Rowe in the wickets.
Another potential advantage is that Stafford has little to play for, although they will no doubt look to end on a high note.
Whatever happens, Alsager, under the captaincy of Ollie Sadler, have enjoyed a fine summer and it will give them plenty to build on for next season if they don't grab the second promotion place.
Stafford form: WLWWL
Alsager form: WLWWW
Prediction: Alsager claim the win they need, but Ashcombe's victory at Oulton leaves them in third place.
NEWCASTLE & HARTSHILL (1st, 364pts) v CAVERSWALL (4th, 288pts)
NEWCASTLE and Hartshill have run away with the division this season, losing just one match, but the focus is all on visitors Caverswall tomorrow.
They are 21 points adrift of a top-two place, but even harvesting maximum points from this tough-looking fixture might not be enough.
Only heavy defeats for Ashcombe Park and Alsager would open the door for them, but you can bet they'll give it a good go.
The runs of Rob King and Jeandre Ludick could give Caverswall a platform to push for victory, while Nazakat Ali will be key with the ball.
Newcastle and Hartshill, though, have proved to be a force this season, and all-rounder Muhammad Fayaz is in a rich vein of form at present.
Newcastle form: DWWLW
Caverswall form: DWLWW
Prediction: It's a tough call for Caverswall, but they leave Clayton Lane with a draw for a fourth-placed finish.
WESTON (8th, 216pts) v KIDSGROVE (7th, 220pts)
BARRING any bizarre results, both of these sides are safe for another season.
Room for improvement, but optimism for the future will be the watchwords for these two as they begin plotting for next year.
Weston's inability to cling on for draws – they have lost 13 times this season, which is the most in the division – has hampered their bid.
Kidsgrove have not been able to turn draws into wins, but have a solid platform from which to progress.
Weston form: DLWLL
Kidsgrove form: LDWWL
Prediction: Weston end their season with a thrilling five-run victory over Kidsgrove as both sides finish in comfortable mid-table positions.