A FIRST win in seven games provided a major boost to South Shields’ Dukes North East Premier League First Division promotion hopes last weekend, but they still have work to do if they are to secure an immediate return to the top flight.
Having endured a lean spell, Shields bounced back to form with a thumping victory over basement side South Hetton to gain 30 valuable points which put them firmly in control of their own fate at the top of the table as it gave them a 37-point advantage over the chasing pack, with just two games left to play.
Club chairman Jim Elliott was naturally delighted with the win and is hopeful that the title can now be theirs. He said: “After a little bit of a stutter over the past few weeks, it was a great fillip for the side to register such a victory, and it has given us some breathing space with just the two games remaining.
“It was great to get the full 30 points and we can go into our tough game at Brandon looking to get the win we need to seal the league title.”
The main feature of the victory was a century from each of their two marquee players as Elliott recounted: “Our batsmen were in superb touch with young Australian Tim David in cracking form, as he has been all season really.
“It was a great bonus to have Gordon Muchall available too, and the pair of them really enjoyed themselves, both making tremendous centuries.”
But, with Durham engaged in a Royal London Cup semi-final on Saturday, they are unlikely to see Muchall, so it will be back to their normal squad for the crucial game at Brandon, who suffered a major setback last week when losing to Sacriston.
Brandon are not out of the chase yet, indeed a resounding victory for them would throw everything back into the melting pot for the final fixtures, particularly as Shields have to go to Washington on September 13
Washington and Eppleton are the other sides still in with a theoretical shout of the title, but they need that Brandon win if they are to succeed.
If that happens then victories in their respective home games against bottom-of-the-table opposition would make for a grand finale.
Washington entertain South Hetton, and it is hard to see anything other than a home win against a side who have gone 11 matches since tasting victory themselves, and that being their only success of a summer which will see them finish bottom of the pile.
Washington are unchanged and at full strength for this one.
Second-bottom Felling are 34 points ahead of South Hetton, and with no chance of catching the team directly above them, Boldon, there is very little for the Gateshead side to play for when they travel to Eppleton.
Their hosts will have Davey Wilkinson back in the fold following his holiday, although they will be missing Gary Burlinson and Gary Purcell, the latter down in Kibworth with the county over-50s team.
Felling are able to include the returning Danny Clark, while Joe Carroll replaces the unavailable Peter Vinton.
Boldon go to Sacriston without pro Rizwan Ullah, who is sidelined by a leg injury, but Neil Mulvaney is back. Stephen Lamb is also handed an opportunity after scoring a century in the seconds last time out.
Resurgent Seaham Harbour take a full-strength side to Willington, with Jack Lacey and Nathan Newton free from work commitments.