HETTON Lyons continue their solo bid to halt South North’s march towards a ninth top-flight title when they entertain Blaydon on Saturday.
The Lyons currently trail the Bulls by 34 points in the Dukes North East Premier League Premier Division, and there is no doubt the Gosforth side are on a tremendous run of form that has, discounting weather-induced draws, seen them record eight consecutive victories.
It is testament to Hetton’s durability that they have managed to hang in there as well as they have, the only blemish in the last couple of months being the home defeat at the hands of Chester at the beginning of July.
This week’s opponents already have the confidence of an early-season victory over the Lyons. When the pair met at Denefield in May, Blaydon managed to scrape a one-wicket win in a low-scoring encounter which Hetton will feel they should have won.
In recent weeks, the Tynesiders have been on a fine run of form themselves, with five wins from their last six matches placing them fourth in the table, albeit some 60 points adrift of their hosts.
Lyons will have Shaun Birbeck back this week after he missed the last match through work commitments, so that means they will have their full team available as they try to keep the pressure on South North. Blaydon are also at optimum strength following the return of Paul Freary.
Before Saturday’s clash, Lyons entertain Chester-le-Street tomorrow night in the Profound DSL Cup, and with the Cestrians now out of title contention altogether their focus will be on the remaining cup competitions, with the Banks Salver semi-final between the same pair, which fell foul of the weather last Sunday, now to be played on July 27.
Whitburn are the visitors to Ropery Lane on Saturday where the Cestrians will have a full squad available to them, except for David Foster.
They need to get over the disappointment of the Roseworth Terrace defeat after losing a game they should really have won when they needed just 45 more runs, with five wickets standing and 18 overs to get them.
With Gateshead Fell more or less certain to be relegated, Whitburn would seem to have already achieved their main objective of cementing their Premier Division status, given that they are 65 points clear of the drop zone, so they should be able to play with freedom.
The Villagers are also boosted by the return, for the rest of the summer, of Michael Turns after work commitments, while Ross Carty is also back after his recent engagement in Greece.
Lowly Sunderland are likely to name an unchanged side for their game against Durham Academy, who have yet to win a league game.
The youngsters could be forgiven if their minds were on the following day when the Co-operative funeralcare T20 Cup finals day takes place at Tynemouth.
While the team has not yet been announced for the finals day, the Academy have tended to change their T20 line-up from the normal league side, with the inclusion of such players as James Weighell, who captains the cup team, Tyler Easton, Paul Braithwaite and Reece Wood, who all play their league cricket in the NYSD League which has provided a significant supply of talent to the county youth squads in recent years.
The action at Tynemouth begins at 11am when the host club meet South North, with the second semi, at 2pm, featuring Benwell Hill and Durham Academy.
As well as being crowned NEPL T20 champions, the event provides a passport to the national competition, where a trip to Lancashire beckons in the last 32.