Great Eccleston are champions of the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield, and all-rounder Will Thistlethwaite says they have been building towards this title for years.
Thistlethwaite was among the players coming through the ranks from the club’s juniors when Ecc last won the first division in 2008, and he says the team has grown together to achieve the crowning glory of Saturday’s five-wicket win at BAC/EE Preston.
A title race which seemed too close to call a fortnight ago ended up with Great Eccleston triumphing by an emphatic 18-point margin after longtime rivals Garstang, Freckleton (who tied for runners-up spot) and Longridge all lost their final game.
Chasing BAC/EE’s 169-6 in a game vital to the hosts in their relegation battle, Ecc could have eased off when they went out to bat, secure in the knowledge the title was theirs on account of their rivals falling by the wayside elsewhere.
However, opener Adam Green’s 57 led them to a five-wicket win which relegated the Preston team and Thistlethwaite added: “We thought we’d need 23 points from the final two games but the other teams fell away.
“A lot of us have come up through the juniors and the second team to the firsts, so this was a special day and our captain Mustaq Mohammed has been a fantastic leader,” added Will, who has scored almost 5,000 runs in over a decade with the club.
Celebrations of a different sort for Fylde coast clubs in division one, where final-day wins for Kirkham and Wesham and Wrea Green saw both clubs survive in the four-way relegation battle. Mawdesley and White Coppice went down. South Shore just missed out on promotion from division two.
MOORE AND SMALLEY PALACE SHIELD RESULTS
Premier division: BAC/EE Preston (169-6, J Hothersall 64 M Nadeem 3-42 ) lost to Great Eccleston (173-5, A Green 57) by five wickets, Hoghton (187-7) beat Fylde (158) by 29 runs, Longridge (132) lost to Fulwood and Broughton (133-5) by five wickets, Penwortham (154-9) lost to Croston (203-9) by 49 runs, Thornton Cleveleys (178, D Howard 39, A Moreau 3-25, D Gilbert 3-34) beat Freckleton (121, S Bradshaw 3-21, D Howard 3-29) by 47 runs, Vernon Carus (222-6, C Ash 73, W Royle 64, Mi Walling 3-49) beat Garstang (162, I Walling 52, I Dunn 3-28) by 60 runs
Division One: Fulwood & Broughton 2 (207-8, B Fitch 61no, R Worthington 52no) lost to Wrea Green (209-6, P Wood 66no, J Jones 53) by four wickets, Kirkham & Wesham (115-6, M Brooks 70no, I Davies 5-50) beat Norcross (111, S Patel 4-19) by four wickets.
Division Two: South Shore (169, D Jardine 68, D Wilson 6-40) beat Longridge 3 (99, T Davies 4-19) by 70 runs.
Blackpool secured a top-four finish in the Northern Premier League with a 42-run victory away to newly crowned champions Morecambe.
A run of five games without a win before Saturday’s season-closer had dashed Blackpool’s bid to defend their title, though professional Christi Viljoen bowed out on a high with 5-50 as the hosts were dismissed for 141 in 29.5 overs chasing 183 from Blackpool, who were dismissed in 37.4 overs after choosing to bat.
In the absence of fellow strike bowler Richard Gleeson, Namibian Viljoen claimed his third five-for of the the season. And although this was no match for last year’s outstanding 14, it did take him past 150 wickets in his two campaigns for the club.
Number seven Michael Penney top-scored for Blackpool with 45 off 31 balls, sharing a sixth-wicket stand of 54 with captain Paul Danson (27), after opener Stephen Twist made 44. Wicketkeeper Lewis Edge led the way for the hosts with 34.
Fleetwood claimed runners-up spot at Chorley, where the visitors’ modest 109 was enough for a 16-run victory in a low-scoring affair. Mat Clark’s side leapfrogged Darwen, who lost out to Penrith by 20 runs.
Leyland finish just behind Blackpool in fifth after a 32-run victory at St Annes, where the visitors chose to bat and piled up 259-6, with Andrew Makinson unbeaten on 63 from 49 balls.
St Annes’ Xander Pitchers was another Fylde coast professional to bow out on a high, leading the reply with 69.
Geeth Malinda made 54 and Adam Holt 50 but those who came in after number four Pitchers would add only 12 as third-bottom St Annes succumbed for 227 in 47.3 overs in Andy Kellett’s farewell match as captain.
Lytham returned from their season’s final away match in the Liverpool Competition with a two-wicket win which had looked highly unlikely as they stood 94-8 in reply to hosts Rainhill’s 158.
But an unbroken ninth-wicket stand of 68 between Anthony Mulligan (32 not out) and wicketkeeper James McDonagh (29no) saw Lytham to a winning 162-8 in 42.1 overs after the top three had mustered just 12.
Daniel Edwards had earlier taken 4-44 from 10.2 as Rainhill plunged frm 156-5 to 158 all out in 43.2 overs, Tyler McGladdery top-scoring with 43.
Lytham conclude their campaign on Saturday at home to Ormskirk, who will finish runners-up to runaway ECB premier division champions New Brighton. Lytham are set to finish eighth out of 12.