FLEETWOOD Cricket Club, setting the pace in the Northern Premier League and one match away from the final of the Readers Cup, face Darwen on two fronts over the weekend as the season hots up.
They host the East Lancashire side as they bid to maintain their lead in the league, while the same rivals are the visitors on Sunday in the re-arranged semi-final of the Readers Cup.
The last four clashes had to be put back because of Fleetwood’s success in the T-20 competition.
Fleetwood plan to be unchanged for both matches in what could be a defining weekend of the summer for the club.
Skipper Mat Clark said: “Darwen are certainly not a team that we can take lightly and they will be games of two well-matched teams.
“In fact, Darwen could easily have beaten us earlier in for the season and they only lost their way on that occasion when we got their professional out, Shaun De Kock.
“They have a good side, with people like the Cordingley brothers, though we are not sure whether Alex Davies is playing for them as he may be on international duty with England under-19s.”
Fleetwood will be without Naveed Yousaf, who will be absent for a fortnight.
Clark said: “We can’t underestimate anyone – we are top of the table, so we are the team that everyone wants to beat.”
It is league matters first for Fleetwood tomorrow, on a day when their chief rivals, second-placed Barrow, are at home to Preston.
It is still all to play for, with six matches remaining and only three points separating the top two.
Clark’s side stole an important march on the Cumbrians with a win over them last Saturday.
The Fleetwood skipper said: “There is still a long way to go, and we just have to try and win every game.
“We still have local derbies to play against Blackpool and St Annes, and they won’t be easy, but the same applies to Barrow, who also have to play Netherfield and Kendal before the end of the season.
“We treat every game the same whether it is against the top of the table or the middle.”
Barrow have a tricky match against an improving Preston team.
Barrow know full well know the threat that Preston will pose, especially from Lukman Vahaluwala, and there is no margin for error at this critical phase of the season.
All the other teams in the league have got plenty to play for; one of the stand-out games is at Shap Road as a resurgent Kendal host Blackpool.
Kendal have been one of the best bowling and fielding sides in the league, both Jack White and Chris Miller continue to take the wickets.
Blackpool have had a mixed season but boast a serious threat to Kendal, especially through the bowling of Richard Gleeson, one of the top wicket-takers in the league.
At Vernon Road, St Annes will be looking to build on last week’s win over Preston when they host an improving Lancaster side that have picked up considerably since Ben Simm became captain.
In Division Two, bottom side Lancaster, fresh from their win over Netherfield, host David Bartholomew’s St Annes at Lune Road.
Blackpool host Kendal at Stanley Parkwhilst Darwen host Fleetwood.
The other Reader Cup semi-final on Sunday pits Leyland against Kendal.
Fixtures: Division One (1pm start): Barrow versus Preston; Chorley vs Carnforth; Fleetwood vs Darwen; Kendal vs Blackpool; Leyland vs Morecambe; St Anne’s vs Lancaster
Sunday: Netherfield vs Lancashire Colts
Division Two: Blackpool vs Kendal; Carnforth vs Chorley; Darwen vs Fleetwood; Lancaster vs St Annes; Morecambe vs Leyland; Preston vs Barrow