NE Premier League: Crunch time for Eppleton in fight for Premier Division survival

Eppleton. Back, from left: Sam Blacklock, John Smithson, Jack McBeth, Liam Mallaburn, Liam Dixon, Gary Burnison, Kyle Davis, Dean Musther;  front row: Joe Blacklock, David Wilkinson, Braydn Davis, Marcus Brown, Calum Jefferson,  Abihijai Mansingh.
Eppleton. Back, from left: Sam Blacklock, John Smithson, Jack McBeth, Liam Mallaburn, Liam Dixon, Gary Burnison, Kyle Davis, Dean Musther; front row: Joe Blacklock, David Wilkinson, Braydn Davis, Marcus Brown, Calum Jefferson, Abihijai Mansingh.
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Second-bottom Eppleton, without a league win since May 21, face a huge match at Eastwood Gardens on Saturday.

They travel to bottom club Gateshead Fell, who had a morale-boosting win at Stockton last week.

The Church Road men, in their first season in the top flight, are 36 points ahead of Fell at present, but can ill afford to lose this game.

Director of cricket John Smithson admitted: “It’s a massive game for both clubs.”

Eppleton will be without all-rounder Paul Coughlin and Fell will be without Graham Onions, as both will be on Durham duties.

Whitburn are just a point ahead of Eppleton and have not won in their last three league games and are certainly not safe yet either.

They visit South Shields, in fifth, who comfortably beat Eppleton last week, so it is likely to be a very tough game for the visitors.

Hetton Lyons meet Durham Academy, with both teams entrenched in mid-table.

Academy coach John Windows said: “The lads played well against Newcastle last week on a good track, but their bowlers really tried hard to dislodge us, but we did well for the draw.”

Lyons welcome back Durham bowler Brandon Carse from his foot injury.

With only six weeks to go until the end of the season, Chester-le-Street are in pole position with a run of great form, having won their last five league games.

This weekend they entertain Stockton at Ropery Lane, with the Teessiders. until last week’s defeat by Gateshead Fell, having shown some really good form themselves.

Skipper John Coxon is delighted with the Cestrians’ form, saying: “We are playing very well at the moment and there are contributions from everyone in the team and just when we need someone to make a breakthrough, or dig in with the bat, the performances are happening.

“Even when we have been in some tricky situations, the team can draw on the experience of the players who have been around a while.”

Richard Waite, who has scored 159 in his last three league outings, is missing this weekend unfortunately, but Andrew Smith is back, alongside Quentin Hughes, to strengthen the batting in Waite’s absence.

Newcastle who drew with Durham Academy last week, are just two points behind the Cestrians and are at home to Tynemouth, who are still fourth despite their narrow three-wicket defeat by Chester last week.

They will be difficult opposition for the home side and Newcastle skipper Jacques Du Toit is looking forward to a spicy encounter. He said: “They are always tough games against Tynemouth, but we look forward to the game and hope our catching improves this week.”

Defending champions South Northumberland are also breathing down the leaders’ necks, having won their last two league games and are just seven points behind the Cestrians.

They travel to Benwell Hill, who have had two high-scoring draws in their last two games, to drag themselves slowly away from the relegation place.