Loughborough eye last eight
The ECB National Club Championship Fifth Round takes place on Sunday with some mouth-watering ties in prospect involving the 16 clubs left in this year’s competition.
Loughborough, who reached the quarter-final in 1999, are hoping to repeat that feat this weekend but have the daunting prospect of taking on the 2006 champions from South Northumberland. At least the Leicestershire club have home advantage and will be hoping that the journey will take its toll on their opponents.
Northern from the Liverpool Competition at last have a home tie at this stage of the competition - in recent years they have twice travelled to Leicestershire to play Kibworth.
The only downside to having a home tie is that their opposition are West Indian Cavaliers, who are playing away for the fifth consecutive round and include Alex Tudor in their ranks. Cavaliers have a very strong side and are hoping to continue their recent good record in progressing further.
The most intriguing tie has to be the one at Farnworth where the Bolton League side host Bamford Fieldhouse from the Saddleworth League.
One of these leagues is now guaranteed a place in the last eight which proves that not all of the strongest clubs in the land are members of ECB Premier Leagues. Indeed, they are following in the footsteps of Waltham from the Essex Sunday League who reached the semi-finals in 2008. Farnworth will be hoping for another top performance from Adil Nisar as they try to overcome their strong opposition from the Rochdale area.
The other match in the northern half of the draw throws up a Birmingham Premier League clash as Walmley, currently ninth in the league table, will try to cause an upset by beating Knowle & Dorridge who are proudly sitting on top of the league some 28 points clear of Shrewsbury in second place. The gap between Walmley (127) and Knowle & Dorridge (205) in the league is a daunting 78 points.
In South East London, Bickley Park from the Kent League will host Middlesex side Teddington. The two clubs are having vastly contrasting seasons in their respective leagues with Bickley Park just above the relegation places and Teddington sitting comfortably in third.
Bickley will hope that James Lincoln and Richard Clinton will score heavily so that they can put pressure on Teddington. Teddington have impressed in the last two rounds by beating the best of the Sussex League in Horsham and Preston Nomads and a trip across London should provide another success for them.
Saffron Walden are third in the East Anglian Premier League and have an eagerly anticipated tie at home to Bromley. Both clubs have a good pedigree in this competition including picking up the trophy. Saffron Walden won in 2002 and Bromley lost the 2006 final to South Northumberland but returned the following year to beat Kibworth.
Jason Gallian will be the best known name in the Saffron Walden side whilst Bromley have had a number of ex-First Class players in their side over recent years. This tie could prove to be one of the closest of the round.
Another tie involving clubs from the same league takes place at Bath where the West of England Premier League has its own ‘final’ in this competition when Bridgwater pay a visit.
In the last round Bath, currently top of the league, disposed of Frocester, who are in second place, and are now taking on the club next in the pecking order as Bridgwater sit in third. To show how strong the WEPL is this year Taunton St Andrews, sitting in fourth, were beaten by Bridgwater in the last round.
The final match sees Ealing – riding high in Middlesex once again – take on Reading. The visitors are having a highly successful season after suffering relegation last year but will have their stiffest challenge of the season when they travel to London.