Sacriston eager to make amends for 2011 near-miss

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SACRISTON are desperate to bury the memories of two years ago when, after their best season for many years, they let the Northumberland and Tyneside Senior League title slip through their hands on the very last day of an outstanding campaign.

That still leaves a nagging ache in the stomach for those involved.

But this Saturday could see that fateful day wiped from the memory banks as they travel to Boldon, knowing a victory would bring the Dukes NEPL First Division title and confirm their greatest ever achievement – not to mention a seat at the very top table next summer.

In the first meeting between the two sides, in June, Sacriston emerged as comfortable winners despite the presence of West Indian international Nelon Pascal in the Boldon line-up.

He returned home some weeks ago, but Boldon have not fared too badly since, having lost just once since the last meeting with Sacriston, so there are unlikely to be any easy pickings for the table-toppers.

Sacriston are back to full strength for this final fling, as Jack Hardy has recovered from his hand injury and replaces Philip Long. Harry Hubber continues following his seasonal debut last week.

Boldon will be pretty much at full strength as Neil Mulvaney, who top-scored for the Sunderland Road side in the first meeting, is back.

One team definitely rooting for Boldon are close neighbours Whitburn. After heading the league for much of the summer, they were displaced as leaders a month ago, but they have clawed their way back into contention to stand just 12 points behind Sacriston.

Whatever happens, skipper Andy Turns has enjoyed a fine campaign leading the side, and he is solely focused on their home game against Washington:

“With a 12-point deficit, and only one game left, we are clearly reliant on Boldon doing us a favour, but all we can do is concentrate on trying to beat a very good side in Washington,” he said.

Washington delivered the shock result of last weekend when they toppled Brandon and knocked them off the summit.

So they will be a tough nut to crack, though they have to cope with two absentees as Mark Watson and Stephen Cuthbertson are unavailable.

Youngster Matthew Potts is drafted in and will open the batting, while a decision on the other replacement has been deferred.

In just one fateful weekend, Brandon slipped from odds-on favourites to rank outsiders.

They are now reliant on both teams above them slipping up as they are 21 points adrift of Sacriston and nine behind Whitburn. Brandon end their programme with a home game against unchanged Felling.

Despite being at the bottom of the heap, Seaham Harbour have thoroughly enjoyed their experience in the new set-up.

They have competed in almost every game, as typified by their spirited performance against Sacriston last week.

They end with a home game against Eppleton, but skipper Stuart Lacey will be missing, and that could mean he has been seen for the last time.

With 35 years of outstanding service behind him and his knees giving him gyp, the 52-year-old is contemplating retirement.

Eppleton have also enjoyed their taste of life at this level.

A series of major injury setbacks has not taken the gloss off a season where they were determined to give their own players the chance to shine, a successfully worthwhile exercise.

With both Jefferson boys missing, Stephen Brett is one of those drafted in on Saturday.