Alliance Affairs - Fight for last Merit League place continues

Last updated : 06 February 2003 By Peter Heywood

One factor will be whether or not clubs can complete their fixtures, and certainly the pitch at Oldham for the Clarets’ 3-3 draw on Saturday was far from ideal (but then who are we to complain about the state of other clubs’ pitches?). It could very well be that for a second consecutive season, the Clarets miss out due to a failure to complete their games.

In fact, although the weather conditions were poor, only Bury’s game with Wigan at their Lower Gigg training ground was called off.

Preston, fully aware that Tranmere are still breathing down their necks in the championship race, put their recent hiccup in form (one league win in four) behind them when they thumped in-form Carlisle 5-1. The game was switched from the Preston Sports Arena to the Lilywhites’ training ground at Springfields. The change obviously didn’t do them any harm as a hat-trick from Mark Jackson, and goals from Michael Brown and Mark McCormack proved too much for the Cumbrians, whose consolation came courtesy of a Paul Carvill own goal.

Jackson, who only made up 17 on Monday, has now hit two hat-tricks in his last three games, the other coming in the 5-2 demolition of rivals Blackpool in the Lancashire FA Youth Cup. Normally a midfielder, he has been converted to a forward to cover for the absence of the injured Kelvin Langmead, and this move seems to have paid off. Although he did not score in our recent 2-2 draw at Preston, Jackson certainly impressed and could be one to watch.

Tranmere kept up the pressure on Preston in fine style, winning 6-2 at Stockport. Six different players were on target (Paul Robinson, Alan Griffiths, Chris Dagnall, Thomas Carroll, Neil Ashton, and Paul Brown) illustrating the tremendous strength in depth at the club. More pertinent to the Clarets’ situation, is that it highlighted even more what a fantastic performance the under-18s put in against Tranmere in the Lancashire Cup last Monday. To keep Dagnall, Carroll etc quiet for nearly two hours is no mean feat! David Holt and Matt Bailey got the Hatters’ goals.

Stockport and Carlisle remain third and fourth respectively, but the Preston and the Rovers certainly did the chasing pack a favour with those wins. That last minute controversial penalty conceded by the Clarets at Oldham could prove crucial. Although we have games in hand (if played), we remain five points behind third place. Those extra two points could have made all the difference. Youth Supremo Terry Pashley was clearly not happy after the game: "The referee made a diabolical decision to give Oldham a penalty in the last minute," he fumed. "Everyone was dumbfounded by the decision."

The remaining game saw wooden spoon contenders Blackpool and Rochdale fight out a 1-1 draw at Squires Gate. Matthew Blinkhorn returned to scoring ways for the Seasiders, but the Dale keep their noses just in front on goal difference.

Forthcoming fixtures:

Monday, February 3rd:

Tranmere v Stockport (Tranmere won 4-1; the result is not included in the league table)

Tuesday, February 4th:

Burnley v Carlisle (postponed)

Wednesday, February 5th:

Rochdale v Oldham

Thursday, February 6th:

Blackpool v Tranmere

Friday, February 7th:

Oldham v Preston

Saturday, February 8th:

Bury v Tranmere
Carlisle v Burnley (11am)
Rochdale v Stockport

Leading reported league scorers:

14 Paul Robinson (Tranmere)
13 Chris Dagnall (Tranmere)
9 Kelvin Langmead (Preston)
7 Michael Kewley (Preston)
6 Sean Patterson (Blackpool)
6 Matthew Blinkhorn (Blackpool)
6 Michael Brown (Preston)
5 Damien Hindle (Burnley)
5 Lee Hamilton (Carlisle)
5 Jamie Baguley (Stockport)
5 Fola Onibuje (Preston)
5 Thomas Carroll (Tranmere)

Youth Alliance League Table