Penistone Church are top of the NCEL Premier Division and their manager Ian Richards is confident they can take one of the three promotion places this season. 

After losing two of their first three games, Church have picked up 13 of the last 15 points available including a 5-1 thrashing of Bottesford Town thanks to an Andy Ring hat-trick and Jordan Coduri’s brace. Penistone, who finished second last year with one team promoted, are hoping to be one of the three sides to go up this season.

They lost several of last season’s heroes in the summer but the majority have now returned from other clubs. They are now a point clear at the top with 16 from eight matches and, although teams below them have games in hand, they could increase their lead tomorrow when they host third-placed Hemsworth MW.

Richards said: “It’s good to be top. I don’t look at the league table until Christmas at least, and focus on picking up slightly more than two points per game. But we’d much rather be top than anywhere else and we’re really pleased with our form.  We have a better squad than last year, because a lot of those players have come back after leaving the club and we still have their replacements so there is real strength in depth. 

“The league is better in general this season because, with three promotion places, a lot of teams have increased their budget. It will be a tough ask but we are certainly capable of finishing in the top three. We have taken the momentum, confidence and experience of last season and we have a really good chance of promotion.”

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Richards and his brother Duncan took over the club a decade ago when Church were in the County Senior League, and are now looking for a third promotion. He said: “It would be a fairytale to get into the Evo-Stik League. Everything is geared up for it – our attendances are among the best in the league, our ground is in the best condition ever and the club is fully equipped to go up. We never thought we would get this far but, now we have, we want to keep going.”