BATTLING Darwen dug deep to stay right in the mix for the Chorley Building Society Northern League title as they overcame the threat of St Annes at Vernon Road.

But there was disappointment for Chorley, who were forced to settle for the loser’s share of of the spoils from a draw with Barrow.

The Towers turned in a fine bowling display before getting over the line with the bat in a nervy match to see off a side who had been flying in recent weeks.

Darwen were missing Neil Cordingley, who has a double fracture of the thumb, but new ball pair Chris Wade and Kamran Anwar struck early to remove dangerous Saints pair Andy Kellett and Lukman Vahaluwala for single figures to get the day off to a perfect start. Adam Holt made the most patient knock of 40 to try and get the hosts back on track while Alex Naylor and Toby Bulcock both made handy middle order contributions, while Matthew Taaffe’s 25 got St Annes into three figures.

However, Darwen’s bowlers were on form with professional George Linde claiming 4-22 from 12.1 overs with Anwar’s pace accounting for three victims as St Annes were knocked over for 116. It wasn’t an easy track with the normally fluent Ammer Mirza measured on his way to 14, while Linde’s 18 contained two sixes as Darwen began their reply.

And when they slipped to 61-4 the game was in the balance with former Rawtenstall and Accrington spinner Bulcock wheeling away at one end.

However skipper Jordan Clarke made 16 and Anwar rounded off a fine day as he made 19 not out to steer Darwen over the line with four wickets in hand and 10 overs to spare. Chorley were on the back foot from the start as Barrow made the long trip to Windsor Park.

Kautabh Paswar led the way for Barrow with 52, while Ryan Gilmour’s late 30 also gave the innings added impetus as they got up and beyond 200.

Their final 50-over total of 212-8 was always going to be testing and when professional Mohammed Jamal, Andrew Winrow and Ian Dickinson managed just five runs between them at the top of the Chorley reply it was even tougher.

Will Moulton top scored with a fine 75 but Gaurav Dhar (16) was the only other middle order batsman to show anything like the needed application as Barrow closed in on the win.

However, last pair Billy Smith (12 not out) and Chris Harty (two not out) survived the last six overs to hang on for their draw.

Elsewhere, Blackpool went top after hammering Leyland. Kelly Smuts top scored with 47 as Morecambe beat Penrith.

Netherfield beat Fleetwood and Kendal crushed Preston with Baker brothers Gary and Graham both making half centuries.