Sunderland Harriers look for revival

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SUNDERLAND Harriers have not given up the ghost of clawing their way back to the top of the Start Fitness North East Harrier League senior men’s premier division – starting at Wrekenton on Saturday.

The defending senior men’s champions must pull out all the stops to make up lost ground as the league enters the final half of the season in the Saltwell Harriers promotion.

The Wearsiders, who have won the coveted Sisterson Cup ten times over the past 11 years, are languishing in sixth place – nine points behind table toppers Heaton Harriers. Sunderland dropped from fourth to sixth at the last fixture at Newcastle’s Town Moor after their worst ever league performance. They finished ninth of the ten competing premier league clubs and now face a mountain to climb in what would be an unprecedented turn round in the club’s fortunes – if they can pull it off.

Team manager Paul Redman said: “We still have three fixtures left and we will not give up the title without a fight. I’m hoping to turn out our strongest team of the season and hopefully at the end of the race we should have made inroads into Heaton’s lead.’’

Also ahead of Sunderland are Morpeth, Wallsend and South Shields, all on ten points and Gateshead with 13 points. Sunderland has 17 points.

Sunderland have shown grit and determination previously in other league successes and they showed, just this season, how they can battle back after adversity. After a poor opening fixture they took second place behind arch-rivals Morpeth on home ground at Farringdon.

Redman is spending this week rallying his troops and briefing his team in what is needed for the showdown on the tough Wrekenton course. He will be relying mostly on his slow and medium pack men to be the scorers in the six-to-count team race.

He is hoping to turn out John Dobson, Steven Duffy, Damien Weston, Paul Besford, Ken Bell, Steve Potts, Steven Gordon, Sean Smith, Paul Merrison, Graham Lancaster, Paul Cooper, Paul Collins, Michael Hill, Rob Rush, Noel Hitchcock, Tom Campion, Jake Archer, Tim Field and fast pack man Brian Rushworth. Dobson is lying fourth and Rushworth sixth in the veterans’ grand prix.

Rush not a lover of cross country, has been asked to dig out his spikes after running the fastest lap in the over-50 event in the Signals Road Relay. The Hylton Castle postman will enjoy a five minutes start running from the slow pack and could be a vital team counter.

Sunderland Strollers look set for a return to the premier league once again as they are five points ahead of Birtley at the head of the second division. Houghton Harriers are mid table in division three.

The Sunderland under-15 boys’ team are top of their division – one point ahead of second club Gosforth.

The hosts organiser Keith Wood said: “The cross country course at Wrekenton is in good shape, though a little wet in places. There are excellent shower facilities available next to race registration and the official race car park.

“Parking is available at Cardinal Hume School. Please park within the parking spaces and not on the kerbs or grass verge. This is a large car park. Directions to Cardinal Hume School will be displayed from Wrekenton Village Centre. Race registration is located at Whitehouse Lane community centre and changing rooms. Refreshments will also be available from here.’’

The meeting starts at 12.30 and the senior men are off at 1.15. There is no under-11s race.