Leek and Whitmore prepare for High Noon showdown at Highfield in NSSCL Premier


Alex Mellor says one of his players must seize the chance to be the toast of the town as Leek battle to preserve their NSSCL Premier Division status this weekend.

The Moorlanders welcome Whitmore to Highfield tomorrow for the final match of the top-flight season (noon) – and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Leek currently sit second-from-bottom, just a place and seven points behind their weekend visitors.

The scenario is simple – the winners retain their Premier place, while the losers will be contemplating life in Division One.

And skipper Mellor insists the opportunity to be a hero should provide added motivation.

“We obviously didn’t want to be in this position and if you had said we would be where are before a ball was bowled I’d have said ‘not with our side’,” said Mellor.

“You get on a roll in cricket, whether that’s winning or losing – and if it’s the latter then it can be difficult to snap out of it.

“We want to be at the other end of the table challenging, not where we find ourselves, but we need one last push to keep us in the top division.

“It’s absolutely the chance for someone to be a hero – and all of our players should be striving to be that person.

“Whether it’s with bat, ball or both, it’s there for someone to push us over the line.”

Leek, who were relegated in 2009 and bounced straight back, jumped out of the drop zone a couple of weeks ago after comfortably beating Stone SP.

But they were beaten by three wickets at Meakins last Saturday and, coupled with Whitmore’s victory over Cheadle, dropped back into the relegation places.



Leek captain Alex Mellor says this weekend's NSSCL Premier Division relegation decider against Whitmore is the chance for one of his players to be a hero.
Leek captain Alex Mellor says this weekend’s NSSCL Premier Division relegation decider against Whitmore is the chance for one of his players to be a hero.

“Every game is the Premier Division is big, every season is big,” added Mellor.

“It’s about learning for the lads and also seeing who really wants it. It’s all about character in these situations.

“We’ve put in some decent performances this season and sometimes things have not gone our way or we’ve not had the luck.

“When you’re at the top of the table, half-chances go to hand, but at the bottom they somehow find a gap.

“It’s like last week at Meakins. We were bowled out for 87, but another 20 or 30 runs could have brought about a different result.

“We just have to accept where we are and prepare for this final match.”

Mellor admits it is a useful advantage to be at home for the relegation showdown.

Five of Leek’s six league wins have come at Highfield, while Whitmore is traditionally a tough place to eek out a result.

“It’s important to be at home,” added Mellor. “When you play Whitmore at their place they have such a big advantage.

“Their ground is like a fortress for them and they win plenty of games there.

“To have the game at our place is nice, but we’ve still got to turn up and perform.”

Mellor isn’t expecting his side to be fazed by the challenge they face.

With their Premier Division status hanging by a thread, Mellor wants his players to embrace the occasion.

“If there are nerves, I hope they are positive ones,” he explained. “I want them to fire the players up to go out there and perform. That’s what we need to happen.

“I’m not bothered about Whitmore, we just have to make sure that we are right.”

Whitmore skipper Matt McAll says it’s crucial his side make the trip in a relaxed frame of mind.

Their victory over Cheadle pushed them out of trouble – and McAll admits it came at just the right time after a testing spell.

“It’s a weird one because it’s not a game you really want to be involved in,” he said.



Whitmore skipper Matt McAll says last weekend's NSSCL Premier Division win against Cheadle was a huge boost for his side.
Whitmore skipper Matt McAll says last weekend’s NSSCL Premier Division win against Cheadle was a huge boost for his side.

“We play cricket as a hobby. We work all week and play the game on a Saturday to enjoy ourselves. That’s the same this weekend.

“Everyone wants to stay up and it’s massive for the club, don’t get me wrong.

“But if you over-think things too much then you have a problem and it creates nerves.”

Whitmore managed to dismiss Cheadle for just 39 last weekend – and went on to win the match by six wickets.

McAll says that highlighted what his side are capable of as they head to Leek.

“We’ve had availability issues over the last month and have been three players missing each week,” he explained.

“But we were at full strength last weekend and it showed what we could do. We rolled a very good Cheadle side and it’s good for confidence.

“We’re going into this weekend in a little bit of form.”

Whitmore would already have been safe from the drop if they hadn’t been deducted 20 points earlier in the season.

They fell foul of the league’s player registration rules, but McAll says they can’t reflect on that situation.

Remarkably, though, they are battling for their top-flight lives having won the same number of games – nine – as third-placed Porthill Park.

“The deduction could come back to haunt us, but we can’t look back at that,” he said.

“We have had plenty of opportunities throughout the season to pick up the points we need.

“The issue we have had is when we’ve lost, we’ve lost heavily and not picked up many bonus points. In fact, we might have the worst number in the division.

“We can’t change anything now, and we’ve just got to go to Leek and play the simplest form of cricket we can.

“I looked at the league table six weeks ago and everything pointed to it going down to the last day of the season.

“Last week was big because we’re now in the driving seat in terms of being ahead of Leek on points. But some people might think there is pressure on us because we are going to their place and also in front of them.

“As long as everyone gives their all, I can’t ask for anything else.”





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