Chester-le-Street must put the disappointments of the last two weekends behind them as they still have the opportunity to end the season in a blaze of glory by winning the Royal London National Club Championship.
While league success is not mathematically beyond them, their defeat at South North last Saturday means they have an awful lot of ground to make up in the Premier Division title race and very little time to do it.
And with that result following quickly on the heels of their exit the previous weekend from the National T20 Cup, they could be forgiven for focusing on their Sunday morning trip to Merseyside.
They travel westwards to play Liverpool and District Competition side Northern in the semi-finals of the National 45-over cup, which they won in 2009.
The winners of that tie will advance to the final which will be played at Kent County Cricket Club’s ground Beckenham on Sunday, September 20 – let’s hope it doesn’t rain!
Northern do not have an outstanding record this season in the ECB-accredited Liverpool league, having won just seven of their 18 league matches to date, so Chester are likely to start as slight favourites to progress, despite having to play away from home.
The winners of the tie will play either Blackheath, from the Kent Premier League, or Bath, from the West of England Premier League, in that late September final.
Chester prepare for the trip west with a home league game against Newcastle, and in league terms it really is do or die time for the Cestrians, with maximum points having to be the objective in all their remaining league games if they are to give themselves a glimmer of hope of hauling in South North’s 28-point advantage at the head of the table.
Newcastle have enjoyed an improved season under the leadership of Jacques du Toit, the division’s leading run scorer with more than 900, and with a best-ever Premier finish of third in their sights they are likely to prove stubborn opponents. Both teams expect to be unchanged.
The team standing in the way of Newcastle’s ambitions in that respect are the current incumbents of third place, Durham Academy, who have won five of their last seven matches and also have their eyes on producing their best placing for 10 years.
Their batting stars have been Dylan Budge and Jack Burnham, who have both notched up more than 700 league runs, and that will be a concern for Saturday’s hosts, Blaydon, who are struggling to keep their heads above the relegation waters.
Blaydon are just nine points ahead of famed escapologists Gateshead Fell, who take an unchanged line-up to Hetton Lyons, who have lost two of their last three matches.
And Lyons will, unusually, be missing the normally ever-present run machine Allan Worthy, who takes a break when just 60 from becoming the first man in NEPL history to make 10,000 league runs.
Whitburn, who moved closer to safety with last week’s win over South Shields, travel to Tynemouth, who have suddenly sprung to life with two successive victories.
The sides will have their respective skippers back in charge, Andy Turns returning for Whitburn, who also bring in Craig Henderson for Ross Carty behind the stumps, and Ben Debnam back for Tynemouth, along with Andrew Smith.
South North are unchanged at Benwell Hill, while South Shields, needing to shake off the lethargy which has seen them go eight matches without a win, entertain Stockton.