By Chris West
IT’S the final countdown as Seaham Park stand on the threshold of making club history.
They enter the last three matches of the season with the very real possibility that they could be crowned champions for the first time ever.
Having overcome two extremely difficult hurdles in their last two matches, in the shape of derby rivals Dawdon and tough-to-beat Washington, Park have established a 15-point lead at the top.
With the three games to come all against teams in the bottom four, the title would appear to be theirs to lose now.
Standing in the way of their date with destiny this weekend are Ryhope, who have only won twice this season, but who stick with the side that was trounced by Easington last time out.
With home advantage, and leading wicket-taker Ali Watson back from his holidays, Park’s only problem is a selection one.
Ex-pro Alan Dick lent a crucial hand in Watson’s absence, and he is available for all three of the remaining matches, so the dilemma is who to leave out from the squad of 12 who have all contributed to the side’s success this campaign.
The teams chasing Park have to concentrate on their own game and hope the leaders slip up at some point.
Second-placed Seaham Harbour go to Hylton, where their hosts hope to have nearly everyone back after suffering a nightmarish weekend last time out with so many opting to watch the football – which left a few old timers shaking their heads!
Two players who will miss out are Gary Braithwaite and John Stokoe, the latter sidelined by a back injury, but Lee Rushworth returns after missing last weekend when his wife gave birth to a future Hylton cricketer.
Harbour, seeking a winning port in the championship storm, have Andy Boal returning to put them at full strength.
Reigning champions Boldon CA are still very much in the mix, 17 points behind Park and two adrift of Harbour, and they should have too much in their armoury when they entertain second-bottom Peterlee.
Boldon skipper Gary Hewitt is in sunnier climes this weekend, so CA hand an opportunity to 16-year-old Jamie Carroll.
It won’t be the youngster’s first-team debut, as he has played at this level before, but his form for both the U18 and U15 club sides has been excellent and earns him the call-up.
Silksworth have lost David Nield and Michael Nicholson for the rest of the season.
Nield has an ankle problem, while Nicholson has suffered knee ligament damage, both injuries picked up when they were playing football in separate games last week.
Second-team skipper Glen Davison and Mark Forster step into their places, with Paul Smailes going behind the stumps for the home game against Washington, who show just the one change, with Mark Lee suspended.
Elsewhere, Easington hope to be unchanged against a full-strength Bill Quay, while Murton are missing four players, with Ian King, Keith Chapman, Graeme Robson and Richard Lowes all out of the home game against Dawdon.
The club have delayed naming their final line-up.