FC St Helens stand between Whaley Bridge and a fourth consecutive JB Parker Cup success.

Whaley Bridge beat Knutsford 9-8 on penalties in the 2015/16 final and have refused to relinquish the trophy ever since.

They swept aside local rivals Poynton 3-1 to retain the title the following season and last year they made it three in a row with a Sam Leadbetter inspired 2-0 win over Rylands.

This week they will be looking to add a fourth title to their collection when they take on Steve Leather’s team at Trafford’s Shawe View ground on Thursday night.

The Saints had their survival confirmed on Saturday despite not playing and will be looking to spoil Whaley’s party on Thursday. Leather, like his opposite number, believes the pressure is all on the reigning champions.

"I think all the pressure is on them and I would argue all day long with someone who says it isn’t. It’s fair to say that Whaley Bridge for the last few years have always been in the top two or three in the league. The pressure is on them, we’re the newcomers to the Prem and I think all expectation will be on Whaley Bridge,’ Leather said.

It has been a mixed first season in the Cheshire Premier League for FC St Helens who need only one point from their last seven games to ensure safety.

A change of manager after a poor run of results earlier in the season saw Leather take charge and since then results have improved.

"At the end of the day it’s a results driven game, especially in the prem. Our remit at the start of season was just to stay in the Prem. We have worked hard in a very short period of time to get where we are and we’re almost a victim of our own success. Certainly from the club’s perspective we got there too quickly but when you’ve got it you have to keep hold of it.

"By the beginning of November we had had two league wins since the first of September and you could feel the vibe around the place. I just felt at the time changes needed to be made just to up the ante a little bit. I think our win rate pre November was something like 33% since the 1st of Nov we’ve got that up to about 67%," he said.

After a difficult start to the campaign success in the JB Parker Cup final could put the gloss on their debut Cheshire Premier League season and top off a successful few years for the club.

"We’ve developed at a remarkable pace really considering we never kicked a ball in anger until five years ago. We’ve progressed quite well through the ranks with little or no money to spend. So we’ve done quite well, we’re pleased," he said.

For FC St Helens, Callum Laird is in fine form in front of goal with seven goals in his previous five games and 20 for the season. Having him fit and firing for the final could be crucial if his side are to come out on top.

‘Like all centre forwards he is important,’ his manager said, ‘however a forward is only as good as the opportunities he is given by his teammates. His goals are a reflection of his ability to seize these opportunities.

Whilst Laird’s goals have been consistent his side’s results have been anything but in recent weeks.

A 4-1 win over Poynton last time out came after drubbings away to Pilkington and Crewe respectively where they conceded a collective 12 goals.

Before that they had won three on the bounce, including a convincing 4-1 win over top of the table Altrincham. For the manager their results against the division’s top sides are encouraging.

"Yes we had a horror show against Pilkington but equally we responded very well by beating a very good Poynton side.

"When it comes down to the crunch and when we have to deliver I think we’re quite good at that and I think the last few weeks have proved that.

"In November, when we changed the manager, our first game was in the semi-final against Eagle Sports who were going quite well at the time we pulled together and we dug in deep and we worked for each other and I think we’re pretty good at grinding results out,’ Leather said.

FC St Helens go into the final as underdogs and they may have to contend with a degree of rustiness having not played a competitive fixture since 9 March. Indeed Leather’s men have only played five times since the turn of the year.

He will be hoping that any rustiness may be cancelled out by heavy Whaley legs; they travelled to local rivals Poynton on Saturday and may still be feeling the effects of the seven-goal thriller - which they won 4-3 - when they take to the field on Thursday.

‘It could be a blessing in disguise I suppose. There’s two ways of looking at it. The fact that you haven’t got a competitive game means that your players are a little bit protected and you’re not running the risk of any injuries or suspensions or anything like that but also on the flip side you don’t really want to be going into a cup final not having played for two or three weeks,’ Leather said.

Whatever the physical condition of the two sides the chance to win a trophy should be ample motivation to energise even the weariest legs; the outcome may come down to who can show more guile on the night.

Whaley Bridge are a side with a cup pedigree. They know the way to Shawe View very well and, more importantly, know what it takes to win there.

FC St Helens’ preparation is well under way and Leather believes that his side are capable of causing an upset.

"I think we can pull out a bit of a surprise. We beat Altrincham 4-1 at our place so we are capable of springing a surprise and anyone who thinks they are just going to turn up, look at our league position and think they are going to win are sadly mistaken. Those are the teams that generally fall foul to us," he warned.

The question that will be answered in Trafford on Thursday night is whether history will be made or whether it will count for nothing.