Old Mutual Douglas arrive at a promotion play-off match with visitors De La Salle on Saturday with a successful season at stake.
A 16-match unbeaten home run stretching back to February 2016, saw the Manx side finish the Cheshire/Lancashire Division One league season in second place to promoted Manchester by a solitary point (if the cancelled final league fixture against relegated Oswestry had contributed).
Nevertheless the campaign boils down to the result of this game with a place in North One West at stake next season.
The tie will take place at Port-e-Chee as Douglas recorded more league points than their North Lancashire/Cumbria opponents who finished runners-up to Carlisle.
The Salford team travel with a large contingent of supporters.
Historically the Cheshire league have provided the majority of the promoted teams when the play-offs are examined, and recent form had De La Salle losing to 12th placed Upper Eden while Douglas hit their straps after losing away to Broughton Park in January, winning every match since.
It will not have escaped Douglas’ attention, however, that De La Salle beat champions-elect Carlisle home and away, and the variable nature of the visitors’ record will be cautionary.
The Manx team have improved throughout the course of the season with a powerful scrummage and at times an irresistible backline, and the coaching team of Carl Murray, Mark Robinson and Kieran Mildwaters have set standards previously unmatched in terms of fitness and organisation.
Port-e-Chee has benefitted from Jasper Kirkpatrick’s input as groundsman and the pitch is green, firm and fast.
With favourable weather forecast, the pace of Bryn Snellgrove, Guy Wood, Adam Boyd and Conor Stephens among others will be key, but only if unlocked by the big guns up front.
Skipper Glyn Hooson-Owen leads a formidable pack, where Max Singer has made an impressive contribution in his come-back season and the likes of Carl Markl-Ferns, Niall Killey and Simon Hoddinnott have been stand-out players. Douglas may have conquered the slopes, but their Everest awaits.
Squad - Chris Bollen, Robert Todd, Carl Markl-Ferns, Max Singer, Glyn Hooson-Owen, Paul Leivers, Lance Wyllie, Liam Kirkpatrick, Ralph Clark, Niall Killey, Shaun Wyllie, Bryn Snellgrove, Guy Wood, Carl Murray, Conor Stephens, Adam Boyd, Luke Hyland, Karl Evans, Will Cain.