Another unpredictable seven days of football in the Hallmark Security League means there’s plenty to play for in all three divisions going into the weekend’s schedule.
Starting in the Premier Division, a 3-0 victory at Squires Gate last Saturday was City of Liverpool’s sixth out of seven in the league and moved them 13 points clear at the top.
Next up is a visit to second bottom Hanley Town, whose first game under Micky Morton a fortnight ago could hardly have gone better with a stunning 4-1 triumph at Barnoldswick Town following a run of seven successive defeats.
Such a result can only breed confidence as they seek to climb out of the bottom two.
The Purps’ two closest challengers meet on Merseyside as Bootle take on Congleton Town.
The Bucks leapfrogged the Bears into 2nd last weekend as they beat Whitchurch Alport 5-2 to record their seventh straight league win, whilst two 0-0 draws in the space of a week against Burscough and Barnoldswick have seen Congleton hit what they hope will be a minor blip.
It was Brian Pritchard’s visitors who won the reverse fixture 3-0 in September, though Bootle later knocked their opponents out of the Buildbase FA Vase a few days later.
After a surprise 5-0 home defeat to Charnock Richard last Saturday, 4th placed Barnoldswick bounced back with that creditable draw at Congleton on Tuesday.
They travel to fourth from bottom Winsford United, who had pulled clear of the drop zone but have been dragged back into the battle after a five game winless run in all competitions.
Charnock Richard’s fantastic win at Barnoldswick last weekend was their sixth out of seven in the league and moved them up to 5th.
They are in their best form of the campaign going into a home fixture against Runcorn Town, who in contrast have dropped off the pace a little to 7th after losing their last three league outings.
However, they won at Macclesfield Town in the Cheshire Senior Cup on Tuesday, and triumphed 4-0 earlier in the season against Charnock in the league whilst also knocking them out of the Macron Cup on penalties.
The 0-0 draw at Congleton last weekend extended 6th placed Burscough’s unbeaten league run to ten matches going into an away fixture at Irlam.
The hosts are 14th, and it’s been an up and down week for them having triumphed 4-2 at 1874 Northwich last weekend before going down 5-1 at Litherland REMYCA on Wednesday.
They have already beaten Burscough twice this term in the league and the Vase.
Ashton Athletic moved up to 8th with their fifth straight win last weekend against Northwich Victoria, and they have conceded just one goal during that time.
They host 13th placed Litherland REMYCA, who have had a good week with victories against Runcorn Town and Irlam. They also beat the Yellows 2-0 at Litherland Sports Park in November, so will be hoping for a repeat performance.
After three successive league defeats, 9th placed Northwich Victoria got back on track with a 4-0 win at Padiham in the week.
They entertain 11th placed 1874 Northwich, who had won back-to-back league games prior to a home defeat to Irlam last Saturday.
Squires Gate have slipped to 10th after three losses from their last four – although two were against the leaders City of Liverpool – so they will hope to bounce back at home to Abbey Hey.
The visitors remain at the foot of the table, but are starting to find some form under Rob Byrne with two wins from their last three.
12th placed Silsden were beaten by Abbey Hey last weekend and have now won just one of their last six.
They travel to third from bottom West Didsbury & Chorlton, who are outside the relegation zone on goal difference, but had won four of their first five matches under David Powell before going down 4-1 to Burscough in their last outing.
Five points separate two out of sort sides as 15th placed Whitchurch Alport welcome 16th placed Padiham.
Alport have lost five of their last six but are only a win or two from the comforts of mid-table, whilst Padiham are without a victory since October and are on a run of eight defeats from their last nine.
In the First Division North, Longridge Town maintained their eight point advantage at the top with a 6-2 triumph at AFC Darwen last weekend – their sixth win out of seven.
They welcome in-form Chadderton, who may be 13th but have won six of their last eight after thrashing Holker Old Boys 5-0 last Saturday.
With two games in hand on Longridge, 2nd placed Avro are doing everything they can to keep the pressure on the leaders as they beat Ashton Town 5-1 last time out to make it 28 points from a possible 30.
They travel to 17th placed St Helens Town, who have won just one of their last 12 league matches. However, a decent 2-2 draw with Nelson last weekend ended a run of four straight defeats and gives them something to build on.
AFC Liverpool recorded an excellent 4-0 midweek victory at Cleator Moor Celtic to move up 3rd, extending their winning streak to five and making it three clean sheets on the spin.
They are away at Bacup Borough, who are 7th and come into this one with plenty of confidence having defeated Atherton LR 4-0 last weekend.
4th placed Prestwich Heys saw their run of seven consecutive league wins come to an end with defeat at AFC Liverpool last weekend, so they will want to bounce back at home to Shelley.
The visitors are 10th, and winless in six; they threw away a half-time lead to lose 8-2 at Garstang last weekend.
Sitting in 5th place, Lower Breck are in fine form having triumphed in four of their last five, including a terrific 3-0 away win at Carlisle City last weekend.
They travel to 16th placed Nelson, who were Macron Club of the Month for December but have lost two and drawn one since the turn of the year.
After competing at the summit with Longridge for much of the first half of the season, Carlisle City have now lost their last five games and slipped to 6th in the table.
They will hope to return to form at home to Atherton LR, who sit bottom of the table and seven points from safety after just one victory in their last 16 league outings.
After a resurgence last month, AFC Darwen have slipped back to 9th after losing three of their last four games.
They travel to 14th placed AFC Blackpool, whose form has stabilised under Martin Baird with just one defeat in their last four matches. They will seek a repeat of their 3-2 victory at Darwen in August.
8th placed Garstang are one of the division’s form teams, only denied a sixth consecutive win by an injury-time Steeton equaliser on Wednesday.
They will hope to continue their surge up the table at home to Cleator Moor Celtic, who are 11th but have lost three of their last four matches. Garstang were 3-0 winners in August’s reverse fixture.
12th placed Steeton are winless in seven, although three of their last four have ended all square. Their one defeat in that time came at Ashton Town, who they welcome on Saturday.
Town’s 5-2 victory a fortnight back has been followed by a 5-1 reverse to Avro and a 2-1 triumph over Holker Old Boys, leaving them in 15th place.
There is a big clash at the bottom of the table as Daisy Hill host Holker Old Boys.
The home side’s 3-1 win against Cleator Moor Celtic last week – their first in nine attempts - saw them climb out of the bottom two and leapfrog their opponents in the process, who have now lost their last four.
The reverse fixture in August saw Daisy Hill come from 3-0 behind with 12 minutes left to earn a point.
There are only eight fixtures in the First Division South this weekend, but such is the tight nature of the table there’s plenty riding on each.
Rylands currently lead the way by a point, but were held to a goalless draw at Cammell Laird 1907 on Tuesday having previously seen off Sandbach United and Stone Dominoes. They have won their last seven home league matches as they prepare to welcome 6th placed Vauxhall Motors.
Mick McGraa’s team have lost only one of their last seven, and won their last two 5-0 against Alsager Town and Stone Dominoes. They are currently seven points behind the table-toppers, having played two games more.
A 3-0 victory at Barnton last Friday night kept 2nd placed Wythenshawe Amateurs right in the mix, extending their impressive run to just one defeat from their last 15 matches.
They host 17th placed Cammell Laird 1907, who bounced back from last weekend’s 3-1 defeat at Maine Road with a very respectable point against Rylands. Lairds have now lost just one of their last six, but have now drawn more games than anyone else in the division.
3rd placed Stone Old Alleynians are within four points of the summit as the 3-1 home victory against Cheadle Heath Nomads made it seven wins and two draws from their last nine.
They welcome 7th placed Sandbach United, who have fallen 12 points behind Rylands after a 3-1 loss to them last weekend made it only one win from their last four league outings.
Abbey Hulton United are 4th and only four points off the top, but have suffered back-to-back defeats in all competitions having gone down 3-1 at Wythenshawe Town last Saturday.
They travel to 9th placed St Martins, who are winless in five but have claimed draws from their last two matches away at Alsager Town and FC Oswestry Town.
That draw with St Martins represents the only points that 8th placed FC Oswestry Town have dropped in their last six matches. They have kept clean sheets in three of their last four, and travel to third from bottom Maine Road on Saturday.
The hosts will be full of confidence having won their first two matches under Ray Barnett and Jeff Newman against St Martins and Cammell Laird 1907.
It’s just one victory from seven for 10th placed Cheadle Heath Nomads, who will be hoping to bounce back when they travel to Ellesmere Rangers.
The home side remain second from bottom , but are on their best run of the season having lost only one of their last six league outings, although they threw away a 2-0 lead to draw with New Mills last Saturday.
11th placed Cheadle Town lost for the first time in eight league outings at home to Stockport Town last weekend, and as a result they have now won just one of their last five going into a trip to Eccleshall. The Eagles sit 16th and go into this one having lost four of their last five.
Last but not least, 14th placed Alsager Town entertain 12th placed Barnton hoping to halt a run of 11 games without a win.
The visitors were beaten by Wythenshawe Amateurs last weekend having claimed back-to-back victories prior to that.
As always, an interesting weekend in prospect, so get down to your local club!