Seaham Harbour’s season took a turn for the better last weekend when an emphatic victory over relegation rivals Tudhoe lifted them 18 points clear of the drop zone.
But now they face a different kind of test, with quickly-improving Burnmoor due at the Harbour on Saturday.
Seaham cricket manager Stuart Lacey was hopeful that the first win of the season would be the catalyst for improved form in the coming weeks, although keeping his feet on the ground.
He said: “It was great to get that first win, but Tudhoe didn’t have the best of teams out, with five or six second-teamers in, and also having lost their overseas pro.
“Nevertheless it was good to see Ian Pattison on top form again, and our hope now is that this will kick-start our season. We are notoriously slow starters, so hopefully this is just the start for us.”
Harbour stick with the same line-up for the Burnmoor game, but have further good news on the injury front, with Jack Lacey set to make a return to action for the second team and effectively test out his recovery from a long-standing ankle problem which has sidelined him since mid-May.
Burnmoor, meanwhile, are unbeaten since early May. With Stephen Meek back in harness after his holidays, and Liam Purdy proving a real find, they are certainly in with a shout of making a title bid in the coming weeks.
Aussie Purdy is the division’s leading wicket taker with 22 victims to date, coming at an average of just 10.45 each, and he has already demonstrated the ability to bowl match-winning spells on a number of occasions.
Sunderland’s search for points continues at Ashbrooke on Saturday when they entertain a dangerous Brandon side who have not fulfilled their full potential so far, despite having a number of top players in their ranks.
The Wearsiders are once again waiting to hear about the availability of Usman Arshad, who has been playing in Durham’s short-format teams, but, with a Championship fixture looming, he may be released to bolster an otherwise unchanged side.
Sacriston have dropped off the pace a little at the top of the table, but they now have the opportunity to make up some ground when they travel to second-placed Willington this weekend, and then follow up with a home game against leaders Felling seven days after that.
They are nine points behind Saturday’s hosts, and a further 13 adrift of Felling, so this could well be a season-defining period for Sacriston. With Craig Burke still away, they stick with the same team as last week, including new signing Dan Anderson.
Boldon have their own chance to make an impression in the title stakes when they entertain a Washington team who have fallen from grace after just missing out on promotion in 2015.
Just one win in nine matches sees the Harraton outfit wallowing at the wrong end of the table, only four fragile points above bottom club Tudhoe.
With last week’s top scorer, wicketkeeper Jason Jones, suspended, Washington are pleased to have Tom Colledge back from Loughborough University to play his first game of the season, and they also include Stephen Cuthbertson in place of Niall Cutter.
Meanwhile, Boldon will be missing Tommy Nixon. With Durham batsman Calum MacLeod unlikely to be available, they will be looking to blood a couple of second-team youngster as they seek to maintain their challenge to the leading sides.
Mainsforth visit Felling and Tudhoe host Blaydon.