Blog: NCEL Premier title sprint finish impossible to predict for Worksop, Tadcaster, Shaw Lane and Cleethorpes

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The NCEL Premier title race promises to be a thrilling sprint for the line for three promotion hopefuls, and somewhat of a marathon for a fourth.

Second placed Worksop Town can count themselves as one of a trio of clubs who are coming round the bend onto the finishing straight.

Tadcaster Albion sit top of the table, a point clear of Tigers, both sides with 11 games left to play.

In third place are Cleethorpes, by no means out of the title hunt, two points back from Tadcaster having played one game more.

Most of the intrigue at the top end of the division surrounds the side currently occupying fourth, however.

Ambitious Shaw Lane Aquaforce are eight points behind the leaders – a lot at this stage of the season, were it not for the fact that they have five games in hand.

A problematic pitch has allowed the Barnsley outfit to stage just 10 home games in the league this season.

The other issue is their impressive run in the FA Vase.

Like Tadcaster, Shaw Lane have reached the quarter-finals and both NCEL Premier sides took their opponents to a replay, so both stand a chance of making the two-legged semi-final.

Should Albion and Aquaforce progress, their league games on 21st and 28th March will have to move.

For Tadcaster this isn’t so much of an issue, but it could be catastrophic for Shaw Lane in their bid to clinch a league championship.

Winning a place in the final four of the Vase would mean Shaw Lane have 19 games to play in the eight weeks that remain between now and 2nd May, the final day of the season.

Playing three games a week could take a toll on part-time footballers, the way it did when Martin McIntosh’s Worksop Town side faltered in their play-off bid while playing home games at Retford in 2011.

Wembley is tantalisingly within their grasp as well, which will surely divide their focus – and that of Tadcaster.

And should we encounter another few week of abysmal weather...it doesn’t bear thinking about for the Ducks.

All that said, if they win enough of their games in hand and keep it all together to cross the line in first position, all and sundry will doff their caps to former Tigers Lee Morris and Ben Gathercole, and the rest of the Shaw Lane contingent. It will be some achievement.

Tadcaster appear to have wobbled slightly, and a loss to Thackley in midweek took away some of that invincibility they seemed to have – the last minute repreive everyone was expecting never came.

Manager Paul Marshall admitted the majority of his side, an experienced bunch, were not at the races, and a man of his calibre is unlikely to allow that kind of performance to be replicated.

It could be the kick in the proverbial that ‘Tad’ need, to go on and put a title-winning run together.

They will have to do it the hard way however, with three games of huge magnitude to complete the fixture list – Staveley at home, Cleethorpes away and then a mouth watering clash with Worksop Town at the i2i Stadium.

From a Worksop point of view, they’re well placed. Points in the bag are always more reassuring than games in hand, and they’re in good form – unbeaten in eight, recording six clean sheets in that time and conceding only two goals.

They have hit 26 goals in those eight games – but it’s the failure to hit the find a winner in their draws against Garforth and Heanor that casts any doubt.

Tigers are the most prolific team in the division, with a staggering 95 goals to date.

If they can turn that potent attacking threat into game winning goals in their game at home to Shaw Lane and away at Cleethorpes and Tadcaster, then they’ll have every chance of returning to life in the Evo-Stik.

A dream scenario for any Worksop fan would be to celebrate a league title at 5pm on 2nd May, a scenario that would have been scarcely believable when the club looked dead and buried last May.

Entering March we’re so very nearly there. The finish line is within sight.

But as quickly as those eight weeks will pass, there’s a long, long way to go for the top four.