NE Premier League: Determined captain Coxon looks for Chester-le-Street to go on a winning run

Chester-le-Street bowler Andrew Bell powers in against Hetton Lyons at Ropery Lane last week. Picture by Stu Norton

Chester-le-Street bowler Andrew Bell powers in against Hetton Lyons at Ropery Lane last week. Picture by Stu Norton

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Chester-le-Street aim to build on their convincing win against Hetton Lyons last week, with a title push still possible.

Chester are only 36 points adrift of top spot and will be looking to triumph again at Benwell Hill on Saturday, though the hosts are equally desperate for points to climb clear of the relegation scrap.

The Cestrians field an unchanged team and skipper John Coxon is upbeat about the season so far.

“We are sitting fourth and still have three quarter-finals to look forward to in the cups,” he said. “We have to get going on a winning run and hopefully come up on the blind side.”

John Graham, the South North captain for the last 12 years, has decided to hang up his skippering responsibilities and pass the reins onto former Australian Test batsman Marcus North.

Graham has guided the club to two Premier Division titles, seven First Division titles, four Banks Salvers, and two T20 successes – an impressive haul of silverware.

He has played 288 games for the club, amassing 7,652 runs, at an average of 35.10. In addition, he has taken 149 catches and been involved in seven run-outs.

Leading from the front, he has managed seven centuries and 51 half-centuries, with a highest score of 131 not out against Hetton Lyons in 2013.

Club secretary Gordon Halliday said: “John has been instrumental in the club’s success in recent years and a catalyst in keeping the squad together for a long time now and has led the club through a very successful period in our recent history.”

His team sit in second place, ahead of a difficult home match against Tynemouth, while Newcastle, who regained top spot last week, entertain lowly Eppleton.

Hetton Lyons are unchanged at home to Stockton, who have Jamie Harrison back from his recent ankle injury.

Durham Academy, who will be unchanged, look to continue their recent good form against Whitburn, who have a number of returning players.

Skipper Ross Carty, Paul Shields and Howell Hurst come back in. Academy coach John Windows says that the “players are gaining confidence every week and playing really well at the moment.”

At the bottom, Gateshead Fell are determined to close the 52-point gap to second-bottom Eppleton.

They travel to South Shields and have David Bailey back, alongside the returning Adam Whatley. Skipper Mark Lockey said: “This is a must-win game for us.”

Shields have Luke Henderson back from his Durham duties and Mark Appleton returns to the seconds.