By Ben Challis.
The race for the titles across all three divisions in the James Cropper Westmorland League has been given added interest as recent results have seen leaders beaten, challengers beat each other, and the battles for the championships given some real extra spice.
Until two weeks ago, defending champions Keswick were run away leaders in Division One, and indeed still have nine point advantage over second placed Castletown United, but last weekend’s shock 4-2 defeat to then bottom placed Shap and this weekend’s 3-3 draw at home to Windermere SC have stalled the leaders, who now face third placed Wetheriggs United in both team’s crucial final game before the Christmas break on Saturday.
Keswick have the Divisions top scorer in Richard Bannister and Wetheriggs have second placed hitman Martyn Coleman, and this could be an interesting battle.
Castletown look well placed to capitalise on any stumble by either Keswick or Wetheriggs, and have put together a run of four wins in a row, culminating in a 3-2 win over seventh placed Kirkoswald this weekend gone, with Castletown’s goals from Sean Elliott, Lamin Cham and Sam Oliver and they now face eighth placed Ibis in Kendal on Saturday.
Fourth placed Penrith Reserves also had a 3-2 win, over now bottom placed Sedbergh Wanderers, but one real threat to Keswick retaining their title still looks likely to be Appleby, in fifth place and twelve points adrift, but with a crucial two games in hand.
Appleby have a tricky final match before the break when they face sixth placed Winderemere SC away this weekend. Winderemere, like Kirkoswald, have played more games than the challengers, but can be a handful. The battle to avoid relegation looks equally tight, with Shap, who have three excellent young strikers up front in Jordan Palmer, Luke Fraser and Ben Palmer and what looks like a now more solid defence at the back, are now equal on points but above Sedbergh at the foot of the table.
Shap have had a draw and two crucial wins in a row, this weekend beating Ibis 3-2, and have a game in hand over Sedbergh and two in hand over Endmoor KGR in ninth, who are just two points ahead.after losing 0-2 to Wetheriggs on Saturday with the Riggs’ goals form Andy Murray-Jones and Simon Brough.
Division Two is equally fascinating. Keswick Reserves still top the table after a 2-2 away draw with Appleby Reserves last Saturday, but are only one point ahead on Dent who have a game in hand, and Kirkby Stephen in third place who are just four points behind but have a massive five games in hand over Keswick and four games over Dent.
The only other Division Two game that survived the wet weather was a 1-1 draw between Ibis Reserves (eighth) and Greystoke (tenth).
Winderemere SC Reserves are marooned at the bottom of the Division, with just four points from eleven games, five points behind AFC Carlisle who have three games in hand but were without a game on Saturday with their match against Eden Thistle postponed with the pitches at Sheepmount waterlogged. Kendal United Reserves match against Kirkby Stephen and Staveley United’s home match against Dent were also victims of the weather.
Division Three did better with the weather on Saturday, and eighth placed Penrith Royal dealt a blow to leaders Penrith Academy with a 4-3 win, knocking a hole in Academy’s title charge and leaving the Blues vulnerable to challenges from Wetheriggs United Reserves, Kirkoswald Reserves (who beat Lunesdale United 5-0) and Burneside, all of who are in the mix for the title and promotion and are snapping at Penrith’s heels. Burneside and KO both have games in hand.
Royal’s win came on the back of goals from Adam Carter, Craig Willan, Jamie Armstrong and Tom Jackson. Academy’s goals came from a Nathan Kerr brace and Taryn Reay.
There were also wins for sixth placed Braithwaite who triumphed 2-0 at home over tenth placed Staveley Utd Reserves, and fifth placed Ullswater United who had a convincing 11-0 win at home over basement side Penrith Saints FC, A good win, but Ullswater are probably too far adrift to mount a challenge – but it ain’t over till it’s over: this Saturday ninth placed Enndmoor KGR Reserves host Penrith Academy, seventh placed Langwathby host Burneside who will want to grab all three points to keep their title hopes alive, with Wetheriggs looking for a win over Penrith Saints to keep up the pressure.