St Annes gave themselves hope for next season with a shock 10-wicket derby win at Fleetwood on the day Morecambe were crowned Northern Premier League champions.
A Fleetwood side bidding for runners-up spot were expected to complete the season at Broadwater with victory over a St Annes side who had won only three times in the league all year and had slipped back into the first division’s bottom two, where they have spent most of the campaign.
But inspired by skipper Matt Grindley, who takes the helm on a permanent basis from Andy Kellett next season, and centurion Adam Holt, the visitors cantered to an unlikely victory.
Grindley took a season’s best 6-64 in a mammoth 25-over stint to restrict the hosts to 164-9 – only the second time he has taken six wickets for the club.
Fleetwood had chosen to bat and were given their customary positive start by professional Dave King, whose 56 from 104 balls included six fours.
The Australian’s ninth half-century of the campaign took him past 1,400 runs. King put on 42 for the opening wicket with Adam Parker (26) but no-one else scored more than 15.
Holt and professional Xander Pitchers then polished off a winning 165 between them with almost 18 overs remaining.
Opener Holt is undoubtedly the success story of a dispiriting season for St Annes, his unbeaten 109 coming from 116 balls and including 16 fours and a six. Holt’s second century takes him past 800 runs for the campaign.
Namibian Pitchers’ services will not be retained for 2016, though he is looking to bow out on a high and his 52 from 79 deliveries included six fours.
Eight Fleetwood bowlers toiled in vain as Pitchers’ second half-century for the club helped lift them out of the bottom two.
Defeat means Fleetwood have lost second place to Darwen, who beat Netherfield by 32 runs.
The battle for runners-up spot concludes on Saturday, when Fleetwood visit Chorley and Darwen are at Penrith.
As expected, Morecambe sealed their first title since 2006 with minimum fuss, thanks to a 162-run victory at winless bottom club Preston.
Deposed champions Blackpool, who had no game last weekend, won’t relish being the visitors for Morecambe’s celebration day next Saturday.
However, Blackpool have the incentive of needing seven points to secure a top-four finish and deny Leyland, whose four-wicket win at Penrith gave them a sniff of fourth place. Leyland end with a visit to St Annes.
Great Eccleston have one hand on the Palace Shield title after a dramatic penultimate round of matches. Freckleton trailed the leaders by just a point but suffered a shock four-wicket home defeat by relegation-threatened BAC/EE Preston.
Ecc defeated Penwortham by 35 runs to open up a 10 point gap but must visit BAC/EE, who could provide another last-gasp twist with a further upset on the final day.
Garstang went second with victory over relegated bottom club Hoghton. Garstang end the season at the home of outgoing champions Vernon Carus.
Defeats for Kirkham and Wesham and Wrea Grea left them deep in a division one relegation scrap in which only three points separate the bottom four with one match remaining.
Losing at home to Mawdesley, who were bottom, dumped Wrea Green back into the bottom two, though K&W have the same points total.
Defeat at New Longton left South Shore’s division two promotion hopes hanging by a thread. They must defeat bottom club Longridge Thirds on Saturday and hope for favours elsewhere.
Moore and Smalley Palace Shield results:
Premier Division: Croston (176-6) beat Vernon Carus (172-9) by four wickets, Freckleton (132, A Moreau 63, Austin 5-20, McKeever 3-26) lost to BAC/EE Preston (134-6, McKeever 41, J Hogarth 3-5) by four wickets, Fulwood and Broughton (160, C Rossiter 45, D Howard 5-46) lost to Thornton Cleveleys (165-4, D Howard 54no) by six wickets, Fylde (175-9, J McMillan 48, I Simpson 4-40) lost to Longridge (176-2, J Simpson 49, J Fairclough 47no) by eight wickets, Garstang (194, Mi Walling 50, M Parkinson 5-47) beat Hoghton (142, M Crowther 60, Mi Walling 4-36) by 52 runs, Great Eccleston (203-7, O Parkinson 75no, A Patel 32) beat Penwortham (168, A Unsworth 45, J Proctor 4-23) by 35 runs
Division One: Norcross (102, C Hedges 34, T Wilkinson 5-38) lost to Ecleston (183, T Wilkinson 67) by 81 runs, Vernon Carus 2 (139-2, C Cameron 63) beat Kirkham and Wesham (137) by eight wickets, Wrea Green (146, P Wood 37, A Child 37, C Gibirdi 7-47) lost to Mawdesley (212-6, D Lemarinel 39) by 66 runs.
Division Two: New Longton (145) beat South Shore (120) by 25 runs
Lytham’s encouraging end to a disappointing Liverpool Competition season halted with an 86-run defeat at second-bottom Wallasey.
The hosts were put in and totalled 231-7 from 47 overs, thanks mainly to a fifth-wicket stand of 117 between skipper Daniel Beaver (49) and Laharu Wellalege (65), who faced 91 balls and hit eight fours
Lytham were all out for 145 in 57 overs despite a 10th half-century of the season from opener Will Hale.
Hale’s 65 came from 109 from Hale, with 11 fours, and took him past 1,200 runs for the season in all competitions.
Lytham were going well at 123-2, but when Australian Dom O’Brien fell for for 35, the last eight wickets went down for 22 runs and the last five for 11.
Neil Cross took 5-33 off 22 overs and Lahiru Wellalege 3-51 from 21 as Lytham remain eighth in the ECB premier league with two to play.