NE Premier League: Washington skipper Thorpe relishes crunch clash with title rivals Eppleton

Eppleton batsman Gary Burlinson watches his drive fly past acrobatic Seaham Harbour bowler Craig Stephenson
Eppleton batsman Gary Burlinson watches his drive fly past acrobatic Seaham Harbour bowler Craig Stephenson
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Headline-hoggers Eppleton take centre stage once again this weekend, with the chance there for them to take two more giant strides towards major honours.

Having risen to the top of the First Division table for the first time this summer, they have an immediate chance to put some clear blue water between themselves and the rest when they travel to Vigo Lane on Saturday to take on Washington.

Their hosts’ game last Saturday was waterlogged, and they had to sit back and watch in frustration as Eppleton leapfrogged them into pole position.

Washington will be just as eager as their visitors to take advantage of the opportunities provided by a head-to-head.

The first meeting between the two sides, back in early May, was abandoned, but not before Washington had batted for 55 overs to post a total of 238-2, with Dan Anderson scoring an impressive century.

Washington are led by Ashley Thorpe, who was philosophical about the washout.

“There was nothing that could be done last week,” he said. “We hung around until about 2 o’clock, but one side of the square was under water and it just couldn’t be mopped up.

“We’re really looking forward to the Eppleton game, and we have as strong a side as we can get for this one.”

Despite the frustration of last week’s abandonment, the rest may well have helped Washington as they had included two players who have just returned from injury, and a further seven days recuperation will have done no harm to Adam Randall and Stephen Cuthbertson, who take their place in a full-strength line-up.

Meanwhile, with Graham Hoban returning, Eppleton will also have their number one line-up in the field.

And once that tremendous tussle is consigned to the record books it’s onwards and upwards as the Church Road club travel to Denefield on Sunday to play Blaydon in the Banks Salver semi-final.

Given the respective form of the two sides, the trip north will hold no fears, especially as Eppleton knocked out the same opponents at the semi-final stage in 2014.

The winners will meet Tudhoe or Tynemouth in the final.

Four games without defeat, following an opening run of five losses and three draws, have pushed Sunderland up to joint eighth place, a situation that does not surprise Greg Applegarth.

“We had a decent run in June as we had a few more players available,” said the Ashbrooke skipper.

“We always knew we had a decent core of players, but our problem is strength in depth. When we have everyone available, we are a match for anyone.

“Our overseas pro, Bravesh Shetty, has proved his worth, and we’ve had Usman Arshad available for us on a few occasions in recent weeks, and he‘s made a massive difference.”

Sunderland visit Boldon on Saturday. Their hosts somewhat of an enigma themselves – capable of beating the best on their day, and also capable of slipping up when least expected.

The Wearsiders should have Arsalan Rahim back, but Shetty is one week into a three-week suspension.

Boldon will also be missing their overseas man. After just three games, Mosharraf Hossain is on holiday for two weeks!

With Stu Poynter still on Ireland duty, Boldon promote youngster Gareth Welch.

Seaham Harbour head to Brandon, lowly South Hetton host Felling and Burnmoor will look to topple visitors Sacriston.