Fylde coast cricket preview: Lytham promotion chase boosted by Lancashire star
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Taaffe’s players go into the final game of the Liverpool Competition First Division season in third place.
Victories in their last five matches see them one point behind Birkenhead Park, who occupy the second promotion spot.
Spring View, in fourth, are also in contention given they are only three points behind Lytham with a game to go.
“It’s been a big change and probably my most enjoyable period of cricket,” Taaffe said.
“That’s not only with captaincy but also playing with the way the lads have come together as one and given that extra 20 per cent.
“I think it’s been a change in mindset because we’ve had nothing to lose effectively.
“We didn’t want to wait for the last game to salvage something, instead we’ve played with freedom and no fear.
“It’s come to the last game of the season, we’re one point behind the team in second and these are the games you want to be playing.”
All three promotion chasers have the benefit of home advantage as they look to finish second behind champions Newton-le-Willows.
Spring View have the easier game on paper, given they host second-bottom Caldy, while Birkenhead Park welcome ninth-placed Old Xaverians.
Fifth-placed Highfield visit Lytham, looking to end the season with a fifth consecutive victory.
The situation isn’t new to Taaffe’s players, who missed out on promotion on the final day last year.
Defeat to Caldy saw them drop from first to third as Rainford took the title with Colwyn Bay second.
The skipper said: “Anything can happen but we have the hardest fixture by some distance.
“I would love to go up but we will enjoy what this weekend brings.
“We were in this position last year. The pressure is on the leaders so that’s another reason why I’m not getting overly worked up.
“Birkenhead Park had a couple of tough weeks but they have got some seriously good players in their side and I’m backing them to get a result.
“I try not to think about last year but I think we’ve benefited from it as a club because it’s been another year of lads developing and winning games of cricket - so let’s see what happens on Saturday evening.”
Nevertheless, Lytham will be boosted by the availability of Lancashire all-rounder Steven Croft.
The 38-year-old adds further big-game experience and is a welcome addition to Taaffe’s XI.
He said: “It’s his first appearance since 2019 and, with the way the County Championship has panned out with no game until Tuesday, it’s allowed him to be available which is refreshing to see.
“You always want him in your side. He can put his advice across and calm the lads down if needs be.”
Liverpool and District Competition (12pm): Lytham v Highfield.
Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division (1pm): Kirkham and Wesham v Mawdesley, Lancaster v Thornton Cleveleys, Vernon Carus v Great Eccleston.
Division 1B (1pm): Blackpool 2 v Penwortham 2, Great Eccleston 2 v Preston 2, Thornton Cleveleys 2 v Fylde, Wrea Green v Fleetwood 2.
Division 2 (1pm): Norcross v Vernon Carus 2, St Annes 2 v Walton-le-Dale.