BOLDON CA are gunning for a hat-trick when the season starts on Saturday, writes Chris West.
The double champions pulled a real rabbit out of the hat on a dramatic final day of action in 2011, making up 10 points on Seaham Park to retain their crown by virtue of the fact that they had lost one fewer game.
That made it back to back titles for CA, and, with a settled squad boosted by the return of Gary Frater from Boldon, plus the recovery from serious injury of Steve Martin, they could take some shifting from their lofty perch.
That last-day heartache was the beginning of a difficult winter for Seaham Park, the most recent setback being the blaze which destroyed their pavilion. It is now hoped that the club can play at home with the council providing temporary facilities as an interim measure.
If the ground is almost unrecognisable at the moment, the same can be said of the team, with wholesale changes to last year’s successful squad.
Gone are Dave Hanson, Mark Race, Andrew Docherty, James Ferguson, Alistair Watson and Stuart Pattison, while coming in are Kamran Mansoor (Chopwell), Alan Anderson (Cowgate), Umar Akhtar and Farukh Iqbal, so it will be very much a case of watch this space to see if Park can fight back after a torrid period in their history.
Three of the Park players migrated to Murton.
The experienced Hanson will skipper the team, and Race and Docherty have joined him in the move. The addition of John Sample is also a statement of intent, and he has brought along his ex-Northallerton colleague Richard Bentley, with the revamp of last year’s bottom club completed by the acquisition of Anthony Gale from Dawdon.
With a rebuilt team, Murton are hoping for a return to their glory days.
By contrast to Park and Murton, several clubs have witnessed little movement over the close season – Gale’s departure is the only change at Dawdon, Lee Rushworth’s move to Washington is the only difference at Hylton, and Peterlee are exactly the same, although they hope to have some new signings in the near future.
There is a real buzz about Silksworth at the moment after some major works to update facilities were completed, and Paul Smailes will captain the same squad as last year, the only worries being the injury concerns over Steve Wright’s shoulder, and the fact that Paul Bradford will miss the first couple of months due to work.
Easington languished in eighth place in 2011, winning just four of their 22 matches, but, despite the loss of Sample, they are confident of putting on a much-improved showing after the signings of Mark Cowell (Thirsk), Kevin Spanton (Horden) and key strike bowler Alistair Watson from Seaham Park.
Ryhope aim to consolidate at the same time as continuing to develop their array of talented youngsters. It’s one in and one out in the player change stakes, with Lee Gilbert having left, and Luke Anderson arriving from Marsden.
Joe Dodd has moved on from Bill Quay, taking over the captaincy reins at Eppleton in the Durham Senior League. With Mattie Dench now playing for Sunderland, and the Cuskeran twins possibly missing a chunk of the campaign through work commitments, Quay will do well if they meet their target of a top-half finish.
Two clubs are almost certainly playing their last season in the Coast League. Both Seaham Harbour and Washington have been invited to join the new North East Premier League Second Division, which will begin in 2013, and both are keen to do well in their swansong campaigns.
Harbour have been boosted by the arrival of Stuart Pattison from neighbours Park, but they have lost the league’s leading bowler, Anthony Watson, who is now on Hetton Lyons’ books. With Neil McKinney having retired, they will do well to emulate last time’s third-place finish.
Washington may not see too much of youngsters James Thompson and Adam Hickey, who have caught Durham Academy’s eye, while David Ebdale has moved up to Northumberland.
New signings include Lee Rushworth, father and son Jimmy and Jack Gaff (South Shields), and Nick Thompson (Whickham). Their stated aim is to have a real crack at the title before the move to pastures new.