MIDDLEWICH Town face Barnton, their biggest obstacle to glory, at the end of one year and at the start of the next.
The neighbours, placed second and first - the finishing positions last year in the Mid Cheshire League - clash at Seddon Street on December 27 and have been paired in the Cheshire Amateur Cup a week later at Townfield Lane.
Middlewich reached the quarter-finals beating Grange 3-1, while Barnton ko'd favourites Cammell Lairds (see p78).
They both went into the hat with six West Cheshire League sides but were pulled out together.
Manager Terry Murphy said: 'I had a feeling we would get Barnton, which is a great pity for the Mid Cheshire League.
'I was hoping we would both get through to the final. Now that would have been something.' Assuming the rivals stay otherwise in step, Middlewich will have to beat Barnton twice to overhaul them.
On Saturday they go to Garswood in the MCL Division One Cup and two reserves should get a first-team squad chance.
Joey Roberts has pulled a hamstring and will be out for a couple of weeks and winger Will Killey is unavailable.
The reserves are second in their division and Murphy added: 'They are a young side full of talent. I think they could win their title - mind you, so could we!'
Wes Simpson continues in Town's mid-field and there is no sign yet of him being recalled by Witton Albion or moving on to a bigger club. After seven months out of action, he has only played two games and is still not UniBond League match sharp, but he is a star at MCL level.
What's more, central midfielder Mark Tomlinson, who pulled a thigh muscle when he slipped taking a free kick, is to return at Garswood.