Strugglers Ben Rhydding and Rawdon face tough battle to avoid relegation from Division One

Otley captain James Davies  has his sights on a double

Otley captain James Davies has his sights on a double

First published in Sport

BEN Rhydding and Rawdon face three ‘cup finals’ over the final weeks of the Aire-Wharfe League season as they battle to avoid relegation from Division One.

Two successive wins raised hopes that Ben Rhydding could claw their way clear but since then they have lost heavily to leaders Otley and second-placed Burley, and on Saturday they go head to head with third-placed Beckwithshaw.

That is followed by a death or glory confrontation with Rawdon and a trip to Kirkstall.

Rawdon are just above the drop zone, 17 points better off than Ben Rhydding and four points ahead of Pool but they too have a tough run in, starting with title-chasing Burley tomorrow, and a final match against Beckwithshaw.

Pool’s final three games – against Collingham, Guiseley and Bilton – are not easy but look less daunting.

After last week’s defeat by Kirkstall, Guiseley still need a win at Ilkley tomorrow to feel completely safe.

With Burley and Beckwithshaw hot favourites to keep up the pressure on them, leaders Otley will head for Steeton determined not to slip up and give their nearest rivals any encouragement as they strive to add the league title to the Waddilove Cup they won last Sunday.

Much could depend on the toss because batting first against a weaker team gives a side more chance to gain maximum bonus points.

That has been part of the reason Green Lane have risen to challenge for promotion from Division Two after what looked like a disastrous start.

After only one win in their first seven games, at which stage they were in the relegation zone, Lane have lost only once since and are only seven points behind second-placed North Leeds.

During that run, even in defeat and abandoned games, they have managed to pick up bonus points and have more for batting than any other side.

Much of the credit for that goes to Michael Abbott, who has 675 runs for the season, and former Saltaire batsman Waleed Akhtar who has passed the 500 run mark.

Lane will be favourites to beat Knaresborough but will also expect Colton, who are four points better off, to beat relegation-threatened Thackley.

North Leeds, however, might find the trip to Tong Park Esholt a bit trickier.

Bolton Villas know that anything less than victory at Adel will send them down while Skipton will remain too close to the drop zone for comfort if, as expected, they go down to leaders Follifoot.

Having secured promotion from Division Three, Horsforth can enjoy a relaxed visit to Menston while the two sides battling for the second spot, Illingworth and New Rover go head to head.

Having been beaten by bottom club Woodhouse last week, Hall Park won’t want to allow lowly Alwoodley to repeat the dose, while Calverley will be keen to halt the seven-match winning streak of Addingham.

Silsden will know not to take Woodhouse lightly now the season-long strugglers have finally found some form.

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