PICKERING Town are still keeping the pressure on Cleethorpes Town in the battle for the title, writes Ian Appleyard.

Victory against Parkgate last weekend lifted the club back into second spot in the Toolstation Northern Counties East League premier division – eight points behind leaders Cleethorpes, who have played an extra game.

Cleethorpes were in FA Vase action last weekend and beat Atherton Collieries 3-2 to book a place in the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time in their history.

Their opponents in the last eight are FC Southall of the Spartan South Midlands Football League, who they will visit on Saturday, February 18.

Cleethorpes will be focusing on the league again this weekend as they host tenth-placed Hemsworth Miners Welfare – but there is now a growing possibility that the FA Vase, with its Wembley final, could yet prove a distraction to their title ambitions.

If that is the case, the Pikes are in the best position to take advantage after leap-frogging rivals Bridlington Town, who lost last weekend at Athersley Recreation.

On Saturday, the Pikes are at home (kick-off 3pm) to a Garforth Town side whose results have improved dramatically over the last few weeks.

Prior to the New Year, they had lost four in a row, but the Miners were unbeaten through January, winning their last four games and scoring 16 goals along the way.

However, if the Pikes beat Garforth and then win their game in hand away to Worksop Town next Wednesday night (kick-off 7.45pm), the top two will be separated by no more than five points.

That will set up a mouth-watering clash when the two title rivals go head-to-head at Cleethorpes on February 25.

Only last week the title, according to Pikes manager Paul Marshall, was now 'Cleethorpes to lose' – but things can change quickly in football and many supporters still believe the title is Pickering's to win.

The Pikes, meanwhile, have been drawn at home to Scarborough Athletic in the semi-finals of the North Riding County FA Senior Cup.

Whitby Town, conquerors of York City in the last round, will host Middlesbrough under-23 reserves in the other tie. The games must be played before February 28.