BIG spending Lancaster City may have forged a seemingly unassailable seven point lead at the top of the table but there is still plenty of local interestin the end of season run-in of the UniBond First Division.

Top of the list will be Atherton LR's Unifilla First Division Cup final clash with Lancaster that has been set for Tuesday April 23 at Bamber Bridge's ground, kick off 7.30pm.

There is a lot of strong feeling between these two clubs and the encounter should be an enthralling affair as Rovers are never better than when labelled with the 'underdogs' tag.

Manager Dave Morris' sides always have a formidable cup fighting reputation and, with City eyes and thoughts more on the promotion chase, LR have every justification for going into this big game feeling confident. Coach travel for supporters is begin laid on. Details available on 01942 883950.

There is also the not insignificant matter of which of our three local sides will finish above the other two!

Pride and prestige are at stake in this one and no quarter will be given. There is also the super bonus that a top eight finish brings qualification for next season's President's Cup. This is the Unibond equivalent of qualifying for 'Europe' with a knockout competition that includes all the Premier Division and the leading clubs in the First, thus bringing the possibility of a home clash, and therefore extra gate receipts, from a meeting with one of the League's elite. LR currently sit in 10th berth but having played more games than all closest rivals except Leigh RMI.

It looks certain that both these clubs will have to win all three remaining games, and hope others slip up, to make the qualification mark, which is a heck of a long shot. The two clubs, however, can quite justifiably feel pleased at the end of the day with their season.

Last weekend LR equalled the 50 points total amassed the previous year in the inaugural season in the UniBond League. That debut campaign saw manager Morris stick by the players that had won him two consecutive NWCL championship titles and reach the semi finals of the FA Vase.

This season has seen an immense rebuilding programme that has been handled quietly and effectively by Morris.

Gone are Stuart Humphries (Barrow); striker Sean Parker, Bob Pizelis, Dave Liptrot (all retired), Lee Unsworth (Crewe), Keith Ingham, Andy Feeley and Rob Holgate are all playing in the Manchester League. The League table of November 18 saw Leigh RMI rock bottom with just two wins and a meagre 10 point return from 15 games played.

That week had seen Steve Waywell put in sole charge after the departure of his managerial partner Brian Hart and the club has never really looked back. To even have been contemplating that a top eight finish might be achievable is almost a miracle.

Bringing Kevin Booth in as assistant coach/player was a masterstroke and both he and Waywell now know exactly where the side needs strengthening to mount a challenge worthy of Hilton Park next season.

Appointment The ambition at the club is undoubted, as evidenced by the appointment of former Bolton Wanderers coach Jim Conway in a full time position with the junior section.

The big question remains - will a successful soccer side ever get Leigh folk, born and bred on rugby league, through the turnstiles?

Radcliffe Boro finished in seventh position last season, thereby qualifying for the Presidents, and that is exactly where Kevin Glendon's side sits at the moment.

Amazingly just a fortnight ago, Boro had slipped to 15th after a disastrous reaction to that FA Umbro Trophy exit at home to Gateshead had seen league form go out of the window.

Now three wins in the last three games has put Glendon and his side back where it always promised to be and a better finish than last season looks assured, especially as only one of the remaining nine fixtures is away from home. The Stainton Park boss brought about the transformation in fortune by chopping and changing his side to keep players on their toes. Having to impress to make sure of your shirt can be a great incentive!

Former Oldham Athletic star Frankie Bunn came into the side on Tuesday and hit the winner in a 3-2 win over Fleetwood. Glendon is also keen to take a look at two late signings, Mathew Thorpe, a graduate of the England School of Excellence, signed from Bridgnorth Town and Mark Clancy, a 19-year-old formerly with Altrincham.

Converted for the new archive on 14 July 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.