BOLDON have enjoyed a morale-boosting week, with their impressive first victory of the Dukes North East Premier League First Division season being followed by the surprise signing of Neil Johnson from Whitburn.
The demolition job done on pre-season title favourites Brandon last Saturday has raised spirits significantly at Sunderland Road, with four bowlers combining to destroy the home batting line-up and skittle them for 54, albeit in helpful conditions.
That attack has now been strengthened further by the incoming Johnson who was far and away the leading wicket taker in the First Division last season, claiming 48 victims in Whitburn’s successful promotion push.
Long-serving Johnson (pictured, inset) is understood to have made the move as he wanted regular first-team cricket, and his proven skills at this level can only add strength to Boldon’s push to become genuine title contenders.
He will make his league debut in Saturday’s home game against Willington, who are struggling at the foot of the table at the moment with just 10 points from their first three matches, their parlous position worsened by last week’s 82-run drubbing at the hands of re-born South Shields.
Shields have experienced a remarkable turnaround in fortunes, with a young Aussie at the forefront of their revival.
After going through the 2013 season without tasting victory once, they are now basking in the glow of being top of the early-season league table with two victories under their belt. With a brilliant T20 win over Premier Division Newcastle sandwiched in between, they are brimming with confidence.
Eighteen-year-old Western Australian Tim David has suddenly blossomed in the last few weeks, a sensational innings in the T20 contest at Jesmond drawing praise from all and sundry.
David hit nine fours and nine sixes in making an unbeaten 119 from just 65 balls, with Newcastle’s impressive total of 158 overtaken with three balls to spare.
Just a few hours later he was putting the Willington bowlers to the sword with another 88 runs to ensure his side did not feel the absence of Gordon Muchall, who was making his own pile of runs for Durham, too badly.
But Shields will be tested on Saturday as they entertain a Sacriston team who are just one place and 11 points behind them in second.
Both sides expect to be relatively settled, with Tony Claughan returning in place of Ian Jones for the visitors.
Sacriston face a hectic weekend which begins tomorrow night with their T20 tie at Eppleton, and ends on Sunday when they host the regional final of the Davidstow National Village Cup, entertaiing Teessiders Wolviston.
Seaham Harbour are at full strength for their trip to Brandon, with Jeff Laws and Stuart Pattison back from their holidays.
Their hosts have a major doubt over the availability of Ruel Brathwaite, the Hampshire man suffering an Achilles injury just one ball into his opening bowling spell in the Boldon match.
If he misses out, it is likely that Jordan Grossert will be called up.
South Hetton have to reckon without the services of Ryan Dowse for the time being following an unusual accident when fielding in a game last week.
Dowse collided heavily with another fielder when going for a catch and ended up with a broken jaw which is likely to rule him out for some time.
Skipper Robbie Atherton does return to lead the team this week, and Alex Nicholson is also back for the home game against in-form Eppleton.
In tomorrow’s T20s, South Hetton face a real test as they go to Roseworth Terrace to confront South North, while Eppleton have home advantage against Sacriston and Boldon expect a good crowd when they entertain Sunderland.
Boldon are also in action tonight, hosting Seaham Harbour in the Profound DSL Trophy.