NE Premier League: New boy Khalil backed to make big impact for Sunderland

Sunderland CC. Back, from left: Gary Smith (head coach), Kamran Shah, Jaspreet Singh, Elliot Smith, Rammy Singh, Dan Sanderson,  Jamie Hair (scorer). Front:  Muhammad Khalil, Sam Brigham, Micheal Cooney, Greg Applegarth (capt), Zaheer Shahbaz, James Davies.

Sunderland CC. Back, from left: Gary Smith (head coach), Kamran Shah, Jaspreet Singh, Elliot Smith, Rammy Singh, Dan Sanderson, Jamie Hair (scorer). Front: Muhammad Khalil, Sam Brigham, Micheal Cooney, Greg Applegarth (capt), Zaheer Shahbaz, James Davies.

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Sunderland feel the time has now come for them to show their true colours and start making tracks from the bottom of the table.

While the 15 points they took from the home game against Seaham Harbour last week didn’t lift them above any of their rivals in distress, it did bring them much closer to the teams directly above them.

Muhammad Khalil in action for Sunderland last weekend

Muhammad Khalil in action for Sunderland last weekend

And there are currently just four points covering the bottom four, with Washington now joining Tudhoe and the Harbour in the relegation mix.

Sunderland secretary Mike Smith was feeling optimistic earlier this week.

He said: “While it wasn’t a win, the 15 points we took were a significant boost and brought us within touching distance of the teams above us.

“It might be early days, but we really feel the ship has been steadied and we are in a position now to start making moves up the table.”

Last week’s game against the Harbour featured a new signing. Muhammad Khalil impressed Smith with not only his play but his enthusiastic approach.

“We signed him from Bradford League side Idle.

He is around 24 years old, an all-rounder although principally a batsman,” said Smith.

“He impressed with his innings as opener but, more than that, he added some much-needed urgency to our play and kept the spirits of the team high.

“We needed to improve on what we were doing in the field and this lad looks like being able to help us with that.”

Khalil will feature in an unchanged line-up for the game at Blaydon, a club who were themselves in some trouble until two successive wins lifted the clouds of despair following their relegation from the Premier Division.

They are now 32 points above the Wearsiders, who will nevertheless be gunning for that much-needed first victory.

Sunderland will also have one eye on the encounter at Seaham Harbour, where Tudhoe are the visitors.

A couple of weeks ago, Tudhoe looked odds-on for relegation, but they’ve picked themselves up with a win and a draw in their last two matches.

Harbour, meanwhile, are still seeking that elusive first win and, but for the 18-point uplift they received from the abandoned game at Washington, they would now be well adrift at the foot of the table, so this game falls into the crucial category.

At the opposite end of the table, Sacriston, despite being one of only two remaining teams who are unbeaten, have fallen off the pace a little after some modest points returns.

But they have been in the transfer market yet again with another former old boy, Dan Anderson, returning to the club he left in 2014.

Anderson was one of Washington’s leading batsmen in 2015, scoring more than 800 runs, and his acquisition now gives the Sacriston squad a very healthy look as they make their push for promotion.

With Craig Burke missing for the next couple of weeks, Anderson will slot straight into the line-up for the home game with Burnmoor.

The Moor, one place and four points behind Sacriston, have the influential Stephen Meek back from his holidays which puts them at full strength.

They will choose from a squad of 12, although there is a slight injury doubt over Dan Unsworth, who has a back problem.

Boldon hope to bounce back from that shock defeat at Blaydon when they go to Brandon, and they are keeping faith with the same line-up whose bowling resources were left under pressure by a positive declaration.

They do not expect to include Calum MacLeod because of his Durham commitments.