NCEL BLOG: Aquaforce title win still not a Shaw thing

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It’s not over until it’s over.

That’s undoubtedly the mantra for the managers of the top four sides in the NCEL Premier, as the season rushes towards a thrilling climax.

Of course Shaw Lane Aquaforce could make it very boring for everyone else involved by simply winning all their games.

That’s all the Barnsley side have to do to become champions.

And having taken 18 points from their last six games, they’re certainly looking a good bet for that precious single promotion place.

Worksop Town, currently top, were hoping that either Heanor or Garforth Town could do them a favour and put a stumbling block in Shaw Lane’s path to glory.

Both sides certainly gave it a go.

Heanor were convinced they deserved something from their most recent clash with Aquaforce, claiming poor officiating had cost them – and the video appears to back them up with a slowmotion replay of a handball on the line.

One referee sees it, blows up and sends the Shaw Lane player off. Another either misses it, or sees it and deems it ball to hand.

These are the decisions that can decide titles.

Garforth Town, who have frustrated Worksop immenseley this season with their stubborn but effective defensive displays, gave Shaw Lane even more of a fright, twice taking the lead before succumbing to the greater firepower of the title favourites.

The signing of Danny Frost looks to be an inspired one for Shaw Lane, but also serves to demonstrate the resources at their disposal - in stark contrast with the financial situation most teams in this division find themselves in.

Taking goalkeeper Ian Deakin from Heanor Town was another, presumably expensive, masterstroke.

And looking at the remaining seven Aquaforce games, you can only realistically expect Bridlington, Barton and Cleethorpes to put up a real challenge.

That by no means is said in disrespect to their other four opponents, but Shaw Lane are simply too good for most of the teams they face.

Worksop’s task is straightforward. Win five games and see where it takes them.

Unbeaten in 14, Mark Shaw’s men will feel like 15 points is well within their capabilities.

Third placed Cleethorpes are the real outside bet, taking on Handsworth, Tadcaster, Shaw Lane and Staveley in the next three weeks. A brutal finish to the season.

And what of Tadcaster?

Winning their game in hand will put them above Cleethorpes, and four points behind Worksop.

It will be a big, big ask for Paul Marshall’s men to take the title.

Their maximum possible points tally is 92, whereas Worksop’s is 96 and Shaw Lane could reach 100.

Beware the ides of March indeed - it was a horrible month for Tad, winning only once in the League Cup, losing twice and drawing twice in the league and crashing out of the FA Vase and county cup.

The League Cup now remains their most likely source of joy, but it’s probably their knockout competition success this season that has proved their downfall in the league.

You wouldn’t begrudge any of the top quartet the title.

Shaw Lane could win it despite a fixture list decimated by a woeful pitch.

Worksop Town almost went out of existence last summer.

Cleethorpes struggle with a small catchment area for players, and one presumes their resources are dwarfed by others around them in the top half of the table.

And Tadcaster have had to contend with the crushing of a more-than-distracting Wembley dream.

Smart money might be on Shaw Lane, but in the words of pop pixie Ellis Goulding, anything could happen.