Chester-le-Street have some work to do this weekend to get their season back on track after their worst fortnight of the summer.
In the last couple of weeks, they have been eliminated from the Banks Salver and Profound DSCL Cup, and having just taken 36 points from their last three league games, a run including their first defeat, they have lost their place at the head of the table they were leading by such a significant margin just a month ago.
This run followed swiftly on the heels of a dramatic one-run win over South North in the Royal London National Club Cup, and it is the next round of that competition that holds centre stage this week when the Cestrians host Northern Premier League side Leyland.
Leyland, from Preston, are in mid-table, and given that the Cestrians will be on home soil on Sunday they should start as strong favourites to reach the quarter-finals.
They are also in action at Ropery Lane on Saturday when the surprise team of the season, South Shields, are their visitors.
Despite the Shieldsmen going down to a heavy defeat at the hands of Blaydon last time out, they are in fourth spot and, with the league’s leading run scorer in their ranks, Aussie Tim David, they present a real challenge.
Chester spokesman Tony Birbeck said: “We need to regroup following a one-wicket defeat at Whitburn last week.
“There are no injuries so far this week, so we are picking from a full squad. Stephen Cantwell is taking regular wickets in the second team, plus Josh Wilson continues to push for a permanent place in the side.
“We need a lift, so we are looking to the senior players to bring the team together and gather some momentum for the second half of the season.”
One of Saturday’s most interesting games could be at Benwell Hill, where a revitalised Whitburn visit.
Last week’s tremendous victory over Chester-le-Street lifted the Villagers up to the heady heights of fifth place in the table, and it also instilled belief in the players.
But they will find a different mood at Denton Bank, where their hosts have suffered a dramatic drop in form, the batsmen in particular desperately short of confidence following three successive defeats in which they have been bowled out for 29, 60 and 75.
Whitburn make one change, with Paul Shields in to replace Ross Carty behind the stumps.
Hetton Lyons’ victory over Tynemouth proved a real boost to the side, and was certainly crucial given the surprise back-to-back victories from the previously dead-in-the-water Gateshead Fell.
Lyons hold a 29-point advantage over Fell who, despite their recent performances, will be hard pushed to get anything at South North on Saturday, so the trip to Stockton presents another opportunity for the Lyons to gain more breathing space.
Shaun Birbeck did not make it back to the team last week, but will returnat Stockton, replacing Neil Johnson.
Their hosts have delayed naming their side following one or two internal issues, but it could be that they will miss a couple of key players.