With three months left in the Evo Stik Division 1 North season, seven sides remain in with a realistic chance of promotion and a place in the Evo Stik Premier for the 2014/15 campaign. The winner of the division receives automatic promotion while the sides finishing in places 2-5 will enter the playoffs.
Here is a quick run through of the seven sides that are still in contention.
How the league currently stands. (23/01/2014)
- Curzon Ashton, Played – 24, points – 61
- Warrington Town, Played – 26, points – 59
- Farsley FC, Played – 28, points – 58
- Darlington, Played – 26, points – 55
- Bamber Bridge, Played – 25, points – 48
- Lancaster City, Played – 25, points – 48
- Ramsbottom United, Played – 24, points – 46
Curzon Ashton – 1st place, Title odds 2/5
Curzon Ashton are without doubt the favorites to lift the title as we go into the final three months of the season. The two websites that take odds on the division both have Curzon as favorites at 2/5 to win the title and rightfully so. They have remained near the top for the entire campaign so far despite always having games in hand on their rivals. If they were to win their two games in hand, they would go eight points ahead of second place Warrington. Curzon started off by winning their first six league games and have never looked back. They have so far only lost one league game, a surprise 2-1 defeat away to Ossett Town in December and despite winning the majority of games recently by the odd goal, they still have come through with victories. Having reached the playoffs in four out of the last five seasons they are well prepared for a promotion race and having got themselves into this position anything less than automatic promotion will be seen as a disappointment. The only reason to doubt Curzon will win the title, is their run in sees them still having to play numerous games against the other top sides. With home and away games to play against Warrington and Farsley, as well as facing a trip to Darlington there is potential for them to drop points.
Warrington Town – 2nd Place, Title odds 7/2
Like Curzon, Warrington Town have remained in the top two places for the majority of the season and are the team most likely to stop Curzon Ashton winning the title. Warrington lost their opening two games of the league campaign, before going on a seventeen game unbeaten run. However three league defeats in December against Darlington, Lancaster City and Clitheroe have cost them top spot and they will be hoping they can produce another unbeaten run from now until the end of the season. Warrington’s style of play has been come under attack by others in the division, but it has proven to be effective. They can also count themselves unlucky to have not beaten the league leaders, when the sides met earlier in the season Warrington were leading Curzon Ashton 2-0 inside the first twenty minutes, before floodlight failure led to the game being abandoned. With both games still to play against Curzon, Warrington know they will need two positive results in these games to have a realistic chance of overhauling their opponents.
Farsley FC – 3rd place – 14/1
Farsley FC are currently in third place in the table and have had a very consistent season so far, only losing four of their twenty eight league games. Despite finding themselves only three points off top spot they have played four games more than leaders Curzon Ashton, which may see them having to settle for a playoff place.One thing going against Farsley in the run in, is their fixture list, they still have to travel to all of the other top seven sides away from home as well as hosting Curzon Ashton. They have shown they have quality in the side, as Darlington found out early in the season when we travelled to Farsley and were convincingly beaten 4-2.
Darlington 4th place – Title Odds 8/1
As a Darlington fan at the start of the season started it was unclear what to expect following last year’s Northern League title, what we have found is a tough division which we may not be able to get out of at the first attempt, however given the position and recent form of the team there is hope. After a mixed start to the season, October/November saw the Quakers struggle as we managed to pick up only one win in five games, which come May could be where automatic promotion was lost, defeats against Curzon Ashton, Ramsbottom and Northwich Victoria in this period saw us slip off the pace of the top two and we have struggled to close the gap since. However eight wins and a draw from our most recent nine games including several large wins have given optimism around the club similar to that of last season when we went unbeaten from December to win the title. A playoff spot should be the minimum required from the team, however many fans, including myself, still believe we have a shot of winning the league and gaining promotion automatically. Despite being six points behind Curzon Ashton, who still have had two games in hand, the momentum we have and the level of performances recently should give us enough confidence and could see us go on a similar run as the end of last season. If we do that we could still end up in the playoffs, as we will need the current league leaders to drop points, but you never know. Having beaten rivals Warrington Town home and away in the league, a win at home to Curzon Ashton in February will be a must having lost away to the league leaders 1-0 in October.
Bamber Bridge – 5th place Title odds 66/1
Bamber Bridge have in recent weeks fallen away from the top four in the table but still have a great chance of making the end of season playoffs even if the title is out of reach. A bad run of games and results saw Bamber Bridge fail to win a game in September which put them behind the early pace setters. However they were able to come into the promotion picture with a fantastic run of results stretching from the middle of October to now which has seen them only lose two games, both over the Christmas period, to Darlington and Curzon Ashton. Despite this run they are still thirteen points off the top spot and have played a game more than the leaders.
Lancaster City – 6th place, Title Odds 66/1
Like Bamber Bridge Lancaster find themselves a drift of the top four and may have to fight it out with for the final playoff spot. Lancaster started the season well, but like Darlington struggled in October and November in which they lost five league games to dent their chances of automatic promotion. On the last day of the season Lancaster host Curzon Ashton in what could be a still at that stage be a crucial game for both sides.
Ramsbottom United – 7th place, Title Odds 66/1
The fact that Ramsbottom are in the shake up for promotion at all is a testament to how far they have come from their start to the season. In Rammy’s first seven league games they lost five and were only able to pick up four points which left them in the relegation zone. What has followed has been some remarkable results, since the opening seven games they have only lost once in the league, at Bamber Bridge, have racked up six goal victories over Lancaster City and Burscough and just last weekend a 8-0 victory against Radcliffe Borough. Here at Darlington we have seen as much as any the quality in Ramsbottoms side, as they have beaten us home and away in impressive style. While still in eighth place in the table, they are only two points off the final playoff spot with a game in hand.
Time to make predictions and head rules over heart as I think despite the run we are on now, Darlington have left ourselves to much to do and despite a tough run of fixtures to go Curzon Ashton have still only lost one game this season and for anyone else to take the title away from them they would have to lose three or four in the remaining months.
- Curzon Ashton
- Warrington Town
- Farsley FC
- Ramsbottom United
- Lancaster City
- Bamber Bridge