THE dogfight to avoid relegation from Aire-Wharfe League Division Two gets even fiercer tomorrow when the six clubs in danger go head to head with one of their fellow strugglers.
With five matches to go, Bolton Villas are bottom on 100 points and looking favourites to go down but above them it is a race to the line with Skipton (132), Harden (133), Upper Wharfedale (134), Tong Park Esholt (136) and Thackley (139) locked in a battle of nerves.
Skipton looked safe only a month ago, when Richard Nichols (142) and Ben Holderness (85) put on 225 together to overhaul Green Lane’s 251-7.
But since then, while those around them have been reviving, they have had two matches rained off and lost two more, the latest last week against Colton sending them into the bottom two.
Tomorrow they face Upper Wharfedale, a team that bowled them out for 83 earlier in the season and who have won their last two matches.
Thackley have been in even better form, winning three of their last four, including last week’s final-ball, two-run win over promotion-chasing North Leeds that showed they have plenty of bottle for the challenge.
They face Harden, the team that started Skipton’s decline but who have lost their last two and have a tough run-in, including Follifoot and Colton in the top three, making this match even more important for them.
All but one of Tong Park Esholt’s final five matches are against sides in the bottom half, so their fate is very much in their own hands, and they can take a big step towards safety if they can inflict Villas’ fifth straight defeat.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the table, Green Lane need to beat Adel and pick up maximum bonus points to keep alive their outside chance of getting into the top two.
Two wins in a row have raised hopes that Ben Rhydding can escape relegation from Division One but they have a tough match against second-placed Burley, who know they cannot afford to slip up if they are to catch Otley.
Otley will be expected to pick up a win at Pool but can expect a fight from a side desperate to stay above the relegation spots.
Rawdon and Guiseley, who are hovering too close for comfort above the bottom three, go toe to toe in what should be a titanic clash, both sides being on the back of good wins and with in-form players capable of turning a match.
With a 61-point gap to third-placed New Rover, maximum points from Horsforth just might clinch promotion from Division Three.
But they are sure to have to earn every one of them against neighbours Hall Park, who are still smarting from humiliating derby defeats in both cup and league – bowled out for 25 and then 44.
Park won’t want what could be the last meeting for a while to end in a similar fashion.
With only one win in their last three games, including becoming the first victims of bottom club Woodhouse, Olicanian will be wary of entertaining Addingham, who have leapt from 11th to fifth in the table with five straight wins.
Menston are also on a winning streak and will hope to make it four in a row against a New Rover side whose challenge for promotion was severely dented last week, when they became Addingham’s latest victim.