SACRISTON’S victory over Willington last week has re-ignited their Dukes North East Premier League First Division title ambitions and they go into Saturday’s game against Seaham Harbour with renewed belief that they can mount a late-season push for championship glory.
The two consecutive defeats in July seemed to have blown them completely off course, but their win over an in-form Willington moved them back up to third place, two points behind second-placed Washington and 36 behind South Shields, who dropped points in a draw at Felling.
Wicketkeeper Brian Potts feels the win was just the tonic his team needed as they enter the crucial run-in, and singled out a couple of players who could be key to his team’s prospects, saying: “It was good to get a win after a couple of poor results.
“Graham (Hubber) has been bowling well all season, with over 20 wickets at an average of 12 whilst Mo (Ali) is approaching the 500-run mark.
“The win takes us into third place and whilst South Shields have opened up a bit of a gap at the top if we can go on a bit of run, there is still time to catch them if they slip up.”
Sacriston expect to be able to turn out the same team that defeated Willington, but the Harbour have to make a number of holiday and work-induced changes, with Jack Lacey, Andy Stephenson and Nathan Newton all unavailable.
Jack McCallum, Martin Stephenson and Nathan Corkhill earn call-ups.
A run of just one league win in six outings has blown a big hole in Eppleton ‘s title ambitions – they are now 49 points behind Shields.
But their ambition burns bright through the Banks Salver where they made a little piece of club history last Sunday when they toppled Premier Division Blaydon in the semi-final to reach their first ever Salver final.
In a great game of cricket, New Zealander Ken McClure looked to have given Blaydon the upper hand with 93 from 102 balls, his innings being the highlight of a daunting 45-over total of 237-8.
But Eppleton had four main contributors as they knocked off the runs with four wickets and seven balls to spare.
They now await the winners of Sunday’s other semi-final between Hetton Lyons and Chester-le-Street, and have the added incentive of home advantage in the final, which is scheduled for August 17.
One other pleasing aspect of the semi-final success was that David Wilkinson bowled his full allocation of nine overs.
Having proved his fitness, he will play in the league match at Washington on Saturday.
However, skipper Graham Hoban, as well as Liam Mallaburn, is unavailable, with Kyle Davis handed the captaincy reins for a game against in-form opponents looking to make a late assault on the title.
In the weekend’s other league action, Boldon have Neil Mulvaney back after his recovery from a calf injury, and he plays in the home game against a strangely out-of-form Brandon, who have lost three on the trot.
South Hetton have only won once all season, but they should have a chance of improving that record when they entertain a Felling side who have not fared that much better.
South Hetton make one change, with Tony Murphy replacing Niall Heron in the starting line-up.
South Shields are back on home soil again as they attempt to take Wood Terrace men expect to be unchanged.