IT was a bittersweet weekend for Chester-le-Street, the relief at the return to Ropery Lane tempered by defeats in two cups intermingled with the pleasure of a Dukes North East Premier League Premier Division win that placed them a handy second in the table.
The ground was given a fitting “reopening” last Friday with a thrilling T20 game where just two runs out of almost 300 scored separated the sides at the end, but the Cestrians were the shock losers against First Division Seaham Harbour.
Defeat left Chester with work to do in their final three group matches, which begin tomorrow night at Gateshead Fell.
But if there is still time for T20 salvation, the prestigious national club cup campaign is over for this year after Sunday’s defeat at Blaydon, who will now meet South North in the regional final after their victory over Hetton Lyons.
So last week’s comprehensive league victory over Newcastle held more significance than normal, particularly as it moved Chester into second spot and saw Stockton’s lead at the top reduced by 10 points.
But Chester face a few problems ahead of Saturday’s trip to South Shields, who are making preparations for the second time to welcome Kiwi international Tom Latham to Wood Terrace.
With Chris Youlden nursing an injured thumb, Gareth Wade suffering with hernia problems and top left-arm spinner David Foster unavailable, the selectors are likely to place their faith in youth, with consideration given to 16-year-old Stephen Cantwell, who bowled well for the seconds last week.
In the longer term, there is positive news of Andrew Bell, who should return to second-team action this week following surgery.
Shields were deflated at last weekend’s late news that Latham had to miss his expected debut at Benwell Hill having been selected to play for Scotland against Essex on Sunday, meaning he was travelling south while his new club colleagues were suffering another defeat that left them out on their own in the relegation slot.
But there should be no such worries this time as Latham makes his debut in front of the home support.
Every player needs some luck, even Ryan Pringle.
The Durham man has been in sensational form for Hetton Lyons, his latest masterpiece being last week’s mauling of the Sunderland attack which he took for 156 runs.
But it seems he enjoyed a bit of fortune en route to the league’s highest score of the summer – after surviving a “very good first ball lbw shout” he was then “bowled” but the bails weren’t dislodged, after which he was dropped four times!
Victory took Lyons up to third, and they go to Blaydon on Saturday to try and build on one of their best ever starts to a Premier League season, but must do without Gary Scott, who is out with a hamstring tear. Josh Coughlin steps up to replace him.
Sunderland have the ideal opportunity to recover last weekend’s lost ground when they welcome league leaders Stockton to Ashbrooke.
The Teessiders have taken everyone by surprise so far but showed a slight chink in their armour when failing to deliver the coup de grace against a Durham Academy side who clung on for a draw after being 5-4 at one stage. Sunderland will not have to face Keaton Jennings, who is on Durham duty.
The Academy host Gateshead Fell at the Emirates ICG, while Newcastle meet South North and Tynemouth take on Benwell Hill.