STEWART Airdrie has tipped close neighbours Colne to lift the NWCL Premier League title.

The Reds are already half a dozen points clear at the summit, and having lost just once this term, Steve Cunningham’s men are aiming high.

“Colne have been my tip since the start of the season because they’ve three or four players in their squad who can bag 20 goals each,” said Barnoldswick Town boss Airdrie, who saw his side suffer a crushing 5-0 FA Cup exit to Colne in August.

However, since then, Airdrie has propelled his team into seventh place in the table, adding: “Lads like Jay Hart and Danny Boyle have played at a higher level and you just have to look at the major impact that they’ve had for Colne this season.

“It is still early days, of course, and while there’s a few clubs stacking up behind them I can’t see anybody catching Colne because of the firepower they have at their disposal.”

Last weekend’s 2-2 draw against Cammell Laird 1907 at the Silentnight Stadium saw Barnoldswick end a three-game losing sequence, after defeats to Ashton, Darwen and Northwich.

And they followed that up with a superb 5-0 midweek win over Harrogate Railway Athletic to book a spot in the quarter-finals of the West Riding County Cup.

“We had a good start to the season, but then we dipped a bit, but I still think we’ve got the best squad we’ve had at Barnoldswick for several years,” added the boss.

“For example, when Colne knocked us out of the cup we won our next five games, so there’s a lot of character in the side.

“I’m in my second spell as Barlick manager, and I played here too, but I’m convinced that we are building on a good foundation stone.

“It is a nice blend of youth and experience. We are progressing okay now.”

Barnoldswick return to league action tomorrow when they host mid-table Abbey Hey.

Airdrie, though, says a top-10 finish would be a realistic goal for Barlick.

He added: “We’ve come a long way from last season when we were scratching around for players, and maybe we can kick on in the second half of the campaign and perhaps finish further up the table.

“I’d certainly be delighted with a top-10 finish.”

Elsewhere in the top flight, AFC Darwen go to bottom club Alsager Town, while leaders Colne could face perhaps their toughest test so far at third-placed Bootle.

Nelson host Runcorn Linnets at Little Wembley in Paul Fildes’ first game in charge while Padiham also have home advantage when West Didsbury and Chorlton visit.