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Tension will be running high at Rawdon
With only five more games – 30 more points – to go in the Aire-Wharfe League, it is time to see who holds their nerve and who blinks.
Glory and despair can be a matter of a dropped catch, a big innings or a rain shower.
While in theory points are the same in the first game of the season as in the last, in practice tension plays a bigger part when the final outcome can be calculated.
With leaders Knaresborough hot favourites to win at all-but-relegated Calverley, the chasing pack know they can afford no slip-ups. But something has to give at Rawdon.
The home side lost second spot to Ilkley three weeks ago when rain denied them victory over Thackley, and with just four points from their two most recent games they are now five points adrift.
Ilkley have fared better, admittedly against weaker opposition, and will look back to how Alex Bailey (57) and Andy Wheeler (5-42) steered them to a comfortable win when the sides met in June.
But with Joe Loorham fresh from last week’s century and players like Andrew Doidge, James Milligan and John Hughes capable of turning a game Rawdon’s way, this should be an intriguing encounter.
One side hoping the pair slug out a draw will be Tong Park Esholt, who are a point behind Rawdon.
They travel to struggling Bolton Villas but can also be sure of a battle because Villas are still not far enough above improving Bardsey to feel completely safe.
Green Lane could do them a favour by beating Bardsey but they will need to improve after four straight defeats.
Thackley’s challenge appears to be over, and that will be confirmed unless they can take full points off Colton.
Harden’s gutsy fight to stay in Division One sees them take on Otley, while, at the other end of the table, Guiseley will try to delay Beckwithshaw from clinching the title, hoping to cash in on a sudden drop of form that has seen the leaders suffer two losing draws and a Waddilove Cup final meltdown.
Having put the cup in the trophy cabinet for the ninth time, Burley will resume their chase of runners-up spot but face a difficult task against in-form Kirkstall, while Steeton also need to be at their best against second-placed Bilton.
Horsforth are in a group of three, including Upper Wharfedale and Illingworth, separated by two points, with Skipton 14 points ahead.
With Wharfedale and Illingworth expected to win over Menston and Olicanian, this is a crunch match for Horsforth, who must recover their confidence after being thrashed by Hall Park in last week’s derby.
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