They say the mark of champions is how they perform under pressure – well, if that is the measure, then Seaham Park already have the Second Division title in the bag.
Park, who have star-studded Burnopfield breathing down their necks, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in their game at Peterlee last weekend, when the home team stood on 135-1 chasing a target of 157.
Remarkably, the much-improved home club, who had lost just once in their previous nine games, collapsed to 155 all out, losing nine wickets for 20 runs as they pressed the self-destruct button.
The dramatic win took Park 27 points closer to the title. With just six games left to play, they should be able to hold off the challenge of a Burnopfield side who are now firing on all cylinders after a subdued first half of the season.
The pair are due to meet on August 29, but before then Seaham, who are 41 points to the good, entertain Evenwood on Saturday before going to neighbours Murton next weekend.
Skipper Dave Hanson, who played such a crucial part in the dramatic finale to the Peterlee game by claiming the last two match-winning wickets, misses the Evenwood fixture, although it is hoped that Michael Walker will pass a late fitness and therefore be able to make his delayed debut following his recent signing.
Michael McNicholas takes on the captaincy duties in the absence of Hanson.
Victory is especially important for Park this weekend as Burnopfield are at Houghton, where the home team are trying to end a losing sequence of eight matches, and improve a desperate record of 18 defeats in 19 games, a monumental task for the bottom side given the way ex-Durham stars Callum Thorp and Gareth Breese are performing.
Hope still springs eternal at Ryhope that they can have a say in the promotional stakes.
While catching Seaham is not really on the agenda, given they would have to make up 73 points, Burnopfield are not yet out of sight, and. with a relatively comfortable run-in after Saturday’s match at Marsden. there is still a chance of some late glory.
Ryhope go to Marsden on the back of an eight-game unbeaten run, although their hosts aren’t in too bad a place either. having won five of their last six outings to move to within six points of their opponents with a game in hand.
Connor Pearson is back from his holidays and so goes straight into the Ryhope team in place of Mattie Kirtley, while Marsden hope to include Mark Woodhead if he is able to negotiate a travel route back from Australia that avoids ash cloud delays.
If he doesn’t make it in time, Ryan Little will play.
Whiteleas welcome Peterlee to the Welfare Ground on Saturday, on the back of three defeats.
They make two enforced changes as Rob Scorer and Nathan Ullah are unavailable, with youngsters Peter Burn and Lewis Surtees stepping up.
Peterlee also show two changes of personnel, with skipper Paul Griffith and Ryan Kelly unavailable, and Harry Garraghan and James Bates brought in as they try to banish the memories of the Park implosion.
Murton should be able to add another notch in the wins column as they play at Langley Park. The home team have won just once all season, and, with 16 defeats from 19 outings their record is only marginally better than Houghton’s.
Ben Wicling and Aly Watson are unavailable for Murton for the game, with James Watson and Alan Welburn selected as their replacements.