FIVE teams head into week two of the Dukes North East Premier League First Division Mini League programme with a 100 per cent record, although at least one of those records will go at Brandon, where Boldon are the visitors.
Opinion seems divided on the one-off four-game fixture gap filler played under Banks Salver rules, with some teams finding it hard to get out full-strength sides as some of their players opt to complete commitments in other sports until the real league action begins in mid-May.
Nevertheless, the Mini League does provide the useful opportunity for teams to gain valuable match practice in competitive circumstances, and those with a win under their belts after the opening week are noticeably more positive, which is perhaps not surprising as just one defeat is likely to spell the end of any chance a club has of winning this one-off event.
Boldon skipper Chris Ellison is happy that they have assembled a “good little squad” and the opening derby victory against South Shields proved to be a real team performance with solid contributions from a number of players.
Unsurprisingly, the Sunderland Road side stick with the same line-up for the trip to Brandon, who will also be unchanged, their only first-team absentees being youngsters Jordan Grossert and Matthew Whaley, who will miss most of the Mini League competition through school playing commitments.
Sacriston were the most convincing first-day winners, and they host Seaham Harbour this weekend.
Harbour featured in the game of last weekend when going down by just two wickets to South Hetton, and new skipper Ian Pattison expects to have the influential Shoaib Akhtar in his side for this one after the all-rounder was a late drop-out last week due to work commitments.
Sacriston had every reason to be delighted with their opening victory at Eppleton and they will field an unchanged side for the visit of Harbour.
The most pleasing aspect for the club was the form and fitness of Harry Hubber, who top-scored in the victory with an elegant 83. Hubber missed all but the last two games of the 2013 season due to illness and his welcome return is akin to having a new signing.
South Hetton seek to maintain their winning start in the home game against South Shields.
While their margin of victory at Seaham was close, they feel they made it harder for themselves than it should have been by being penalised 18 runs for failing to bowl their overs in the required time.
Nevertheless, a good all-round team effort won the day and they go with the same line-up against visitors who just envisage one change, with young all-rounder Robin Hagan replacing Adam Shaw.
Shields may be on the verge of an important signing in the next few days, although no name will be released until the formalities are completed.
Washington were the other winners on day one, and they were happy enough with the contribution of their three new players – Melvyn Betts, Adam Randall and Cole Pearce – who all made telling contributions to the victory over Felling.
An unchanged side will host Willington this week, with the visitors, despite having a heavily depleted squad, able to call on overseas pro Gaurav Jathar after his arrival in the country earlier this week.
In Saturday’s other game, Eppleton entertain Felling with both teams seeking their first win.
The Church Road club will go with the same XI as last week and are treating the competition as an ideal opportunity to bed their new players in before the league season starts in a few weeks time.