Blackpool join Fleetwood in title battle

Nathan Armstrong - in action for St Annes
Nathan Armstrong - in action for St Annes
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Blackpool’s surge up Northern Premier League table continued with a third successive win on a day the Fylde coast’s three first division sides were all at home.

Both Blackpool and Fleetwood were involved in exciting contests which went to the final over, though with contrasting results for the home sides.

Namibian professional Christi Viljoen maintained his remarkable form with the ball for Blackpool, recording his fourth successive five-wicket haul to pave the way for a two-wicket win over Lancaster at Stanley Park.

Viljoen’s 5-46 from 14 overs took his wicket tally to 23 in four games as Blackpool put the visitors in and restricted them to 173-9.

Their total was boosted by a third-wicket stand of 74 between top-scorer Michael Barry (54) and Iain Burstow, while Dylan Conroy contributed a valuable unbeaten 37 at no.6. Steven Mercer supported Viljoen with a very tidy 3-23 off 11 overs.

The Blackpool reply was in big trouble at 82-6, but then a stand of 65 between Stephen Twist and Mercer got them back on track as Blackpool sealed victory with just two balls to spare.

Twists’ 60 included five fours, while 34 from no.8 Alex Smith was also invaluable.

Iain Perrieman took 3-30 off 10 overs as Blackpool climb to fifth place.

Fleetwood returned to the top of the table despite losing by a two-wicket margin to Penrith at Broadwater.

If prolific wicket-taker Viljoen is finding runs elusive down the road at Blackpool, the same can’t be said for Fleetwood’s new South African pro Jean de Villiers.

His second century in six innings was the mainstay of Fleetwood’s 175, though they were all out with over three overs remaining.

Da Villiers scored exactly 100, including eight fours and five sixes, to take his total to 384 from just six innings.

The South African held the innings together until he was ninth man out, though the seven men to come in after him managed only 23 runs between them.

Paul Hindmarsh, Jack White and Kriss McLean all took three wickets for Penrith.

Opener Ryan Carruthers then held the Penrith reply together with 87 (nine fours, three sixes), and although nobody else in the top six managed more than 10 Penrith sealed a two-wicket victory with five palls remaining.

Naveed Yousaf took 3-26 off 12.1 and Joe Bell 3-38 off 10 as Fleetwood overtook previous leaders Darwen, who had no game, by a single point but the Broadwater club have played two more.

St Annes recorded their first league victory since the opening day with a 30-run success in a high-scoring clash with Barrow.

Lukman Vahaluwala’s 91 was the mainstay of St Annes’ 255-7 after they were put in.

Passing 50 for the first time this season, Vahaluwala ‘s innings lasted 97 balls and featured 12 fours and a six.

There were also notable contributions from Nathan Armstrong with 58 (seven fours two sixes) and Nathan Bolus with 33, while Gary Collins’ three wickets from 19 overs cost exactly 100.

Barrow scored quickly in reply, but were dismissed with 5.4 overs remaining for 255.

Their victory hopes rose with a middle-order blitz from no.7 Graham Dawson, whose 74 from 52 balls included 58 scored in boundaries, and no. 5 Sam Dutton (65 from 77 balls), but St Annes had enough on the board as Toby Bulcock took 4-74 from 16 overs and Mikey Harling 3-40 from 8.2.