Saturday’s Division One relegation encounter between Seaham Park and Bill Quay is the most important match of the season for the home side.
Michael McNicholas returns after holiday and takes over the captaincy for the remainder of the season from Dave Hanson, who stood down last week.
McNicholas said: “John Sample is back from holiday and hoping to bowl for the first time in nearly two years, following a shoulder operation last year.
“He had his first proper bowl in nets this week and, except for any reaction, should be fine to bowl.
“This will be a massive boost for the club to have him back bowling as he was one of the best bowlers in the league before injury.
“We had a very disappointing result last week against Hylton, but we actually played some decent cricket, we were just beaten by a better team on the day inspired by a fantastic hundred by Sherwin Campbell.”
Bill Quay are just 27 points behind their hosts and will be looking to go unbeaten until the end of the season to stay up.
Jeff Tudor, the club’s skipper, said, “Starting with Seaham Park, our last seven games of the season are against teams that are around us in the league.
“We have played all the top teams now, so it’s in our own hands.”
Quay make one change, with Mark Fish replacing David Robson.
Second-placed Easington are away at Castle Eden, who are clawing their way from the relegation zone, thanks to three wins out of the last four.
The home side are still a massive 79 points behind table-toppers Burnopfield, but have to remain positive.
David Tarn returns, replacing Johnny Archer. Skipper Dane Wilson said,: “Our professional, Sujit Nayak, is in brilliant form at present, with three centuries to his name recently, and the bowlers need to step up, to process his excellent work.”
Dawdon are in great form, winning their last three league games, and have moved in to third position.
They are unchanged at home to reviving Hylton and skipper Stephen Gale is really pleased with his team at present. He said: “We are doing well as a team, particularly with James Dent and Nathan Newton with the bat, and all the bowlers are pitching when called upon.”
Philadelphia entertain Durham City, and the home side’s recent form has seen them drop to fourth place.
They are without Mattie Noble (work) and continue to be missing stalwart Ian Hauxwell, who continues to struggle with a calf injury.
Horden entertain Burnopfield.
In Division Two, the top three continue to slug it out, with Littletown leading the pack.
They entertain Ushaw Moor, on Saturday, while second-placed Peterlee travel to Marsden.
Peterlee are strengthened with the return of skipper Paul Griffith and Harry Garraghan, however, they are without unavailable duo David Craig and Craig Deighton.
Ryhope are away at Evenwood, who are unchanged after their battling draw at Peterlee last week, so the visitors are in for a tough match.
Murton travel to bottom club Silksworth and are expected to be back at full strength as skipper Ben Wicling and Lewis Aiken return to the side after holidays.
Langley Park travel to fellow strugglers Houghton and are struggling for players this weekend.
Skipper Paul Rayner said, “We have four regular players missing with holidays, stag do’s and weddings and younger players will have to fill those places and we all just have to muck in, as no-one is showing any real form of late.”
Whiteleas welcome Boldon CA to the Welfare Ground.
Following last Saturday’s disappointing defeat at Marsden, Leas will be hoping to bounce back to stay in touching distance of the top two.
Trailing leaders Littletown by 32 points and second-top Peterlee by just nine, Owen Peterson’s side know that nothing other than a victory will do against second- bottom Boldon.
The skipper welcomes back batsmen Alex Thomas and the experienced Andrew Potts, but Gary Frater is unavailable through work commitments. With seven games to go, chairman Gavin Peterson was quick to praise the progress made by the team this season.
He said: “Whilst there’s still a long way to go this season, I’m really pleased with the position of the first team.
“As a club, we have built a solid foundation over a short period of time and, as strange as it sounds, I think we have over-achieved to date.
“It’s apparent that the division has teams who have more financial resource than we do and we simply can’t compete from that perspective.
“However, with the first team giving the big guns a run for their money, we’re heading in the right direction.”
Boldon CA make two changes, with top runscorer Paul Anderson returning and Andy O’Connell promoted from the seconds after his recent 58 not out against Littletown. Thomas Jubb and Dan Watson drop down to the second team.