At the double: Andy Whiteford scored twice for his new club GSK Ulverston Rangers in their 3-1 win at Lytham Town CHRIS WEST
By Marc Bazeley
16 March 2017 3:55PM
THE recent revival at GSK Ulverston Rangers faces its toughest test yet tomorrow when the West Lancashire League Division One bottom side host second-placed Haslingden St Mary’s.
Having picked up just one point from their first 15 league games, Ulverston have clawed their way back from the brink of relegation with 10 points from a possible 12 in their last four matches.
Their latest victory saw Rangers claim their first points of the season on the road as they defeated Lytham Town 3-1 thanks to a double from Andy Whiteford and one from Chris Bolton last Saturday.
But now Brian White’s men bid to make it three on the bounce at home to title contenders Haslingden, who handed Ulverston an 8-0 defeat in the reverse fixture back in November.
“It will be a real toughie against Haslingden and when we played them away, they had some really good boys playing for them,” said Rangers club secretary Phil Grant.
“I think one of them has played about 400 games for Preston North End and plays in the centre of midfield, so it makes it hard with things like that.
“But we’ve just got to soldier on, we’ve given ourselves a bit of a chance now, but we’ve just got to take each game as it comes.
“Saying that, in this league it’s not a huge difference, as has been proved by Dalton when they beat top-of-the-league Poulton at home the other week. All we can do is try to put in a performance against whatever team is put in front of us.”
The upturn in fortunes has seen Rangers move to within five points of third-bottom Mill Hill St Peters, along with having one game in hand on them and three in hand on rivals Dalton United.
Rangers and Mill Hill still have to play each other twice as well due to their scheduled encounteres being postponed due to waterlogged pitches, while there is also a return match against the Dalton United team they picked up their first league win of the season against last month.
“It’s the old saying though, you’d rather have the points in the bag,” said Grant. “We’ve still got to play a few of the top teams and a few of the ones around us, and it’s the ones around us we have got to try to get something out of.
“Of course, everyone else is fighting for survival and they’re going to be tough. We’ve got to play Dalton again and Dalton will be a hard game, and we’ve got to play Mill Hill twice.
“They’re games we have got to get something out of, but they’re in the same boat as us and it will be a tooth-and-nail situation where you’ve just got to try to fight for every point you can get.”
And although they face a tough ask against a Haslingden outfit who have suffered just two league defeats all season – the last of which was away to CMB at the start of September – confidence remains high that Ulverston can finish clear of the two relegation places come the end of the campaign.
“If you look back four games ago, we were buried,” said Grant. “But we’ve had some good results and it’s a case of trying to carry on with them.
“Nothing is taken for granted in football and we’ve got teams to play around us who are in the same boat as us, fighting to stay up as well.”
No doubt eyes will be on how Dalton get on tomorrow as well, with United making the trip to Mill Hill and aiming to boost their own survival hopes.
The day’s Division Two action sees Walney Island away to struggling Coppull United reserves and Furness Cavaliers travel to Croston Sports.
Meanwhile, Furness Rovers and Millom are at home to Blackpool Wren Rovers reserves and Leyland United respectively.
Holker Old Boys will be aiming to overturn a 3-1 deficit from the first leg when they travel to Sandbach United in the semi-finals of the North West Counties League’s Reusch First Division Cup.
The Stags suffered a 5-1 defeat in their North West Counties Division One match at Prestwich Heys in midweek, despite having led 1-0 through a Jamie Pattinson goal.
There was better news for Hawcoat Park who progressed to the final of the Presidents Cup with a penalty shootout victory over West Lancs Division One table-toppers and title favourites Poulton.
Hawcoat lost Martin Paterson to injury after only five minutes but were much the better side in the first half, with chances coming from an Ollie Jackson shot that was tipped around the post and a Scott Ellis header which he would have buried 99 times out of 100.
Poulton had a man sent off with 20 minutes remaining and from this point they were trying to take the game to penalties.
The best chance for the remainder of the game fell to Poulton, but keeper Sam Stephens pulled off a smart save.
Hawcoat produced an excellent all-round team performance with youngster Ollie Maguire looking composed at the heart of the defence.
Poulton missed the target with two penalties and Stephens was on hand to save another to see Hawcoat win 3-2 on spot-kicks in front of the vociferous travelling fans.
Hawcoat deserved the victory and will now play Haslingden St Mary’s in the final at Charnock Richard FC on Tuesday, March 28 (7.30pm kick-off).