Sunderland are casting anxious glances towards the Durham Cricket League after a fifth defeat in eight outings ensured they remained anchored to the foot of the First Division.
It would almost be unthinkable for the Ashbrooke outfit to drop straight through the First Division just one season after relegation from the Premier, but, if a suitable promotion candidate tops the Durham League, that is the fate awaiting the side finishing bottom.
The Wearsiders’ latest reverse came at Willington where, despite Chris Dorothy’s five wickets, the home team made 214 in their 55 overs as Anand Singh (10 fours in 50) and 18-year-old Jack Howell (47 not out) gave the innings substance.
Indian Bravesh Shetty then equalled his highest score since joining the Ashbrooke club, but his knock of 88 found no support from anyone else, with the next top score being 15, as Sunderland subsided to 168 all out in the 45th over.
The one consolation for Sunderland, if it can be labelled as such, was that they took eight points from the defeat, which was five more than fellow strugglers South Hetton managed in their game, with the gap between the two now narrowed to just three points.
South Hetton found leaders Brandon in uncompromising mood.
The table-toppers rattled up 244-4 in 47 overs, with Ryan Nicholson (123 not out) notching up another century. Despite 52 from Tariq Aziz and 30 from Nathan Adamson, the home team’s innings was wrapped up inside 31 overs as South Hetton went west for 139.
Seaham Harbour are not exactly in the comfort zone either, after they became the latest victims of in-form Eppleton.
Harbour started well enough, reducing their hosts to 13-3, but then they hit a brick wall as Gary Burlinson and Kamran Shah combined in a fourth-wicket partnership of 140 that provided the springboard to an eventual total of 248-7 in 52 overs.
Shah hit nine fours and a six in his 91, while Burlinson just missed out on his century as well, finishing with nine fours and four sixes in his quickfire 98.
Jack Lacey, Ian Pattison and Nilkanth Parab all grabbed two wickets.
Seaham’s innings initially followed a similar path to Eppleton’s, a moderate start seeing them reduced to 43-3 before a fourth-wicket stand of 78 between Dale Shaw and Martin Stephenson (18) raised expectations.
But when Shaw went for 64, after making the bulk of the running in that partnership, the Harbour defences showed signs of crumbling as they lost four wickets for 10 runs.
It was then backs to the wall in the hopes of salvaging a draw, but those hopes were dashed with just two overs left as Shah (3-31) claimed the final wicket to join Zaheer Shahbaz (5-53) as the bowling match winners, Seaham sinking for 180. Umar Akhtar (21) and Lacey (20) offered the best support to Shaw.
They are now an edgy 19 points above the drop slot.
Eppleton’s win took them from fourth place to third as Boldon inflicted a first defeat of the season on Burnmoor, who slid from second to fifth as a result.
Neil Young’s 71, allied to Kevin Dixon’s unbeaten half-century, enabled Moor to register 204-6 in their full 55 overs, but that proved inadequate as the home team had a four-wicket win in the bag inside 46 overs.
Boldon’s top three did the donkey work – Chris Ellison (41 from 48 balls), Joe Coyne (32 from 89 balls) and Stu Poynter (62 from 75 balls) getting them three-quarters of the way there before the middle order finished off with valuable bits and pieces contributions.
Washington toppled Tudhoe to climb into second place, albeit 29 points adrift of Brandon.
Trent Mais (3-39) and two wickets apiece from Mel Betts and Adam Randall helped restrict Tudhoe to 170-9. Washington were led by Martin Hubber (63no), Andrew Ebdale (28no) and Betts (27), securing a five-wicket triumph in 51.5 overs.
Sacriston (209-8) drew at Felling (246-3 declared), former Whitburn favourite Stuart Walker making 94 for the hosts and Ian Hunter (66 from 66 balls) trying to lift the visitors.