Eppleton target final push in tight title race

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AFTER the glamour of their day in the Banks Salver final spotlight, it’s back to the more mundane business of earning league points for Eppleton this weekend as they begin their crucial four-game run-in with a home match against rock-bottom South Hetton.

Eppleton did the First Division proud in the Salver, coming so close to a sensational result against one of the acknowledged powerhouses of Premier League cricket, Chester-le-Street.

While the final losing margin was 26 runs, that does not tell the whole story as the underdogs looked in with a real chance of knocking off a target of 239-8.

Kyle Davis played the innings of the match, his 86 runs coming from just 83 balls, with six fours and three sixes, and, when he was sharing a fourth-wicket stand of 92 with Rizwan Ullah (54), Eppleton were in the driving seat after reaching 175-3 and needing just 65 more to win

But, when both the major run-makers went within two overs of each other, the tide turned and the Cestrians’ vast experience enabled them to close out the game as the home team eventually fell for 213, with seven balls remaining.

But that is now history, and the main prize is still there for the taking, with leaders South Shields showing signs of frailty in recent weeks, and a home game beckoning against a South Hetton side who haven’t won for 10 matches.

Eppleton are 29 points behind Shields, but a major haul from Saturday’s match would provide a major boost ahead of a three-game finale which looks to be the least demanding of all those still in with a shout of the title.

Davey Wilkinson remains the only absentee for Eppleton, so their cup final line-up will do service again against South Hetton who have to reckon without wicketkeeper Ryan Dowse and Dan Stewart. Andy Hillas is likely to be called in to take over the glove duties, while Saj Hussain will make a rare appearance, having joined the club in the close season.

The two teams above Eppleton both face tricky encounters, with South Shields at Sacriston and second-top Washington travelling to Felling.

Sacriston’s own bid for glory has come off the rails in recent weeks, with just one win in their last seven outings, but Shields have not won in their last five – ever since winning four home matches on the trot in late June and early July.

They wait to see whether Sam Taylor-Gell has recovered from his hand injury, while Durham batting star Gordon Muchall could well be playing.

Washington, 24 points behind Shields, are confident that they can make an impression in the closing weeks, and they hand an opportunity to Mark Watson, while left-arm seamer Adam Randall is given the chance to have a long bowl and regain fitness in the seconds.

Hosts Felling have Paul Leonard back and Nicky Heron comes in for the unavailable Mike Malthouse.

Two wins in a row have re-ignited Brandon’s ambitions, but they have to go to Seaham Harbour, who are in pretty good spirits after getting the better of South Shields in their two back to back games with the leaders.

Harbour have Shoaib Akhtar back after his late drop-out last week, while Steve Sennett comes into the side in place of the working Andy Stephenson.

Boldon promote Stephen Lamb in place of the unavailable Neil Johnson, while hosts Willington, currently enjoying their best form of the season with four wins from their last six matches, bring in Jack Howell in place of holidaying keeper Chris Smith. Elliott Foster will go behind the sticks.