WITH the dust still settling on last week’s double header, Readers Durham Cricket League table-topping Durham City get the chance to relax this weekend when they have their “week off” and watch their Second Division rivals play their game in hand, writes Chris West.
City’s leadership is not under threat as they have the significant cushion of a 55-point lead over second-placed Whiteleas, with Bill Quay one point further back in third and Seaham Park sneaking up on the rails in fourth.
Two teams will be promoted at the end of the season, so that represents a significant carrot dangling in front of the chasing pack, and one that Ryhope are also in with a chance of nibbling following a decent points return from their double which moved them into fifth place, some 23 points behind Saturday’s hosts, Whiteleas.
Ryhope will go into the game with a new old face in the dressing room as Dave Gilbert has returned to the club following a spell with Horden.
His arrival is timely as Dan Clasper misses out on this one.
Leas name an unchanged side for the game and skipper Ray McRae is aware of the challenge his opponents present, saying: “Ryhope are a very dangerous batting side and are capable of amassing big scores.
“If our bowlers can take key early wickets then it will give us half a chance of getting a positive outcome from the game.
“We are second in the table now – it’s therefore important that we gather momentum going into the second half of the season and remain in the promotion pack.”
It was a case of win one and lose one for Murton last week, but they are slowly growing in confidence following a desperately slow start to the campaign.
While they have to reckon without Keith Chapman for Saturday’s home game against Bill Quay, they do have the recently signed Aiken brothers, Matthew and Lewis, as well as Jonathan Seed, back in the team.
Bill Quay are able to include Davey Brown, who dropped out at the last minute last weekend because of work, as well as Micky Orridge, who is back from his assault course escapades.
Seaham Park started the season with five matches in which their best return was five points.
Davey Hanson’s men have now won three on the trot to nudge their way into promotion contention, with the ability to turn out stronger teams in the last few weeks being singled out as the main reason for the dramatic change in fortunes.
But there are selection issues this week, with skipper Hanson working, the in-form Jimmy Taylor missing, and both Tom Riches (ankle) and Paul Smailes sidelined by injury.
Smailes is in the treatment room after breaking his hand playing football earlier this week, and he may now struggle to make it back before the end of the season.
The selection of the replacements has been deferred for a head count tomorrow night. Their game on Saturday is at Langley Park, who sprang a surprise on Sunday when winning at Ushaw Moor, their success following four defeats on the trot.
Peterlee try their luck at Ushaw Moor on Saturday, and they will be parading new signing David Craig following his move from Philadelphia.
With Tom Nicholson also back in harness, the Newtowners will be hoping to notch up a first win of a difficult campaign which sees them currently propping up the rest.
In the top flight, the battle between the two front-runners becomes ever more intriguing, Burnmoor for ever threatening to pull away from Dawdon and the rest, but then being hauled back.
Last Sunday was a classic example. After an excellent win the previous day against a dangerous Esh Winning, Burnmoor found Tudhoe an altogether different proposition and, by picking up a meagre return in a drawn match, they allowed Dawdon to move to within eight points of them at the summit.
The Moor were magnanimous enough to admit that they probably should have been beaten, and the view was that Tudhoe were the best team they had played this season.
But having survived, and kept their unbeaten record intact, they now move on to a game at Horden, who are in a terrible run of form having lost their last four games, as well as Dave Gilbert to Ryhope.
Burnmoor make one change, with McKenzie Wright in for the unavailable Neil Young.
Second-top Dawdon are able to name an unchanged line-up when they host Marsden, while Castle Eden have John Spellman and Phil Winpenny back for their game at Boldon CA, who go with the same team who surrendered their unbeaten record last Sunday.
Hylton are likely to bring in Kevin Mustard for John Stokoe when they entertain an Easington team who continue without the services of skipper Dane Wilson.
With Peter Greenwell away, Philadelphia hand an opportunity to another promising youngster, Gary Embleton, when they take on Esh Winning at Bunker Hill.