TITLE-CHASING Sacriston will aim for a maximum points haul on Saturday when they take on bottom club Seaham Harbour in the penultimate game of the season in the Dukes North East Premier League First Division.
With just four points separating the top two, every point is likely to prove crucial.
With leaders Brandon facing a tough assignment at Washington. this could present the opportunity for Sacriston to make their move ahead of their final game at Boldon next week.
Harbour make two changes for the game, with Neville Gustard dropping out and Stephen Sennett working.
Ryan Martin comes back into the side, while Nathan Corkhill is handed an opportunity.
The Sacriston line-up will include Harry Hubber, who will be returning to first-team action following almost two seasons out of the game through illness.
Hubber has demonstrated his class in the two second-team matches he has played since returning to fitness, scoring 48 against Washington and an unbeaten 55 against South Hetton.
But while Hubber makes a welcome return, Jack Hardy will have to miss this one after sustaining a broken finger. With Ryan Moralee away, Philip Long receives a call up.
Having lost just three games all season, Washington are well capable of upsetting the Brandon bandwagon, particularly as they are able to put out an unchanged side, which is their strongest.
As ever, captain Ash Thorpe is looking forward to the challenge and has not thrown in the towel in respect of his own side’s title aspirations despite being some 36 points adrift of top spot.
He told the Echo: “We’d obviously like to give them a pretty good touch up as it’s the only way we can get back in the title race ourselves.”
Whitburn need both teams above them to slip up at least once in their final two games to keep alive their title challenge, and they go to Eppleton on Saturday attempting to recover from the disappointment of their 160-run Banks Salver final battering last Sunday.
The Villagers were the victims of a superb Jonny Craigs innings for Benwell Hill, the Minor Counties player making 124 from 108 balls to set up the huge 45-over total of 292 that Whitburn found impossible to challenge.
The losers had their own man of the match in Michael Turns, whose six wickets and top-scoring 31 runs would normally have brought greater rewards.
Whitburn will have to cope without key batsman Neil Ayre in their last two games.
His season has been ended by an arm operation, a great shame for him and the club as he has had a splendid season with his 672 league runs coming at an average of 84, which places him a close second behind Brandon’s Karl Turner in the batting rankings.
Michael Bittlestone returns from holiday and resumes his place in the side.
In Saturday’s other games, a full-strength South Hetton entertain Boldon, who have two enforced changes with James Coyne likely to miss the rest of the season and Neil Mulvaney away.
Jamie Carroll and Geoff Sargon step up.
Felling host Willington, who miss the working Stephen Bradwell and the injured Stephen Alderson.