HORDEN have been buoyed by the excellent form of their new overseas pro, Sahil Madgaonkar.
Skipper Carl Watson had pre-season concerns about the loss of some players, but the form of the young man from Mumbai has been a tonic.
Watson, who has guided his side into third place in the table following an impressive bank holiday double over Philadelphia and Easington, said: “Having lost Adrian Hedley to Ryhope, we needed someone to fill the big gap he left.
“Hopefully, in Sahil, we’ve signed someone who will not only score big runs but also take wickets and be competitive with both bat and ball.
“He’s certainly made a great start and so we need to push on from here.”
Horden enjoy home advantage on Saturday when they entertain Marsden who have lost two out of three. The hosts expect to put out the same team as Monday, which is their full strength line-up.
The First Division is already beginning to take on a familiar look, with reigning champions Burnmoor holding pole position, and last year’s runners-up Esh Winning easing their way into second spot with two impressive performances.
Down at the other end, Boldon CA and Hylton occupy two of the bottom three places following their abandoned game on Monday, with Evenwood keeping them company after their dramatic bank holiday collapse to lose by 12 runs after being bowled out for 45 by Crook.
The main man in that Crook attack, who amazingly managed to defend a paltry 57 put together by their batsmen, was Andrew Robinson, who returned match winning figures of 6-24 on a “really damp pitch”.
But he is set to miss Town’s trip to Burnmoor on Saturday, although the return of Andy and Liam Burgess, along with Chris Elmes, means they will have a useful side out with which to test the home side’s resolve.
The leaders have their own worries in attack, with Stephen Meek unlikely to bowl for the forseeable future because of a shoulder ailment which is likely to require a minor surgical procedure to correct.
So, with Martin Thursfield still nursing a broken thumb, and Owen Lancaster, who bagged a “five-fer” against Dawdon on Monday, unavailable because of work, Burnmoor hope to persuade Paul Davidson to don his whites again.
Dawdon’s brief flirtation with the top spot was halted by Burnmoor, but they have an immediate chance to bounce back when they travel to Esh Winning, who promote young batsman Stephen Jackson to play alongside the returning Shaun Walker.
After an opening-day defeat Castle Eden have bounced back with two wins, and they take their new found form to shell-shocked Evenwood, who are still struggling to come to terms with their astonishing batting collapse at Crook.
Castle Eden will be missing key players Richard Ede and Alan Unsworth, and their places go to the McGlashams, Robbie and Richie. Evenwood have a few players making the trip to Wembley to support FA Vase finalists West Auckland and defer selection.
In Saturday’s other top-flight games, newly married Lee Innes returns for Philadelphia’s home game against full strength Boldon CA, Jason Moses and Ryan Higgins are back in the Easington side who travel to Tudhoe, and winless Hylton hope to break their duck at Mainsforth.
Durham City head the Division Two table. They are seven points clear of second-placed Bill Quay with the pair scheduled to meet on Tyneside on Saturday.
The hosts enjoy the unusual luxury of being able to name an unchanged team for the third week running, while City have one enforced change, with Danni Hazell on Yorkshire women’s duty. They bring in batting all-rounder Phil Parker to take her place.
The fact that at least one of the top two will lose points will further embolden third-placed Whiteleas, who have played one game fewer than their rivals but are well positioned to take advantage of any slip-ups having garnered a maximum points haul in the one game they have played to date.
The South Tynesiders are able to name an unchanged side for the trip to Seaham Park.
They were delighted with the input from their new overseas pro in the opening game, Hamad Ul-Hassan scoring an unbeaten 82 and returning bowling figures of 1-7 from eight overs and taking two catches on his debut.
Park suffered the ignominy of being bowled out for 52 last week, but they had six players missing. With four of them returning this week, they expect a better display.
Just Ali Watson and Thomas Ferguson remain absent from their first-choice line-up.
Peterlee entertain Ryhope, the visitors having to reckon without Tom Lemon so James Summerside plays, while Murton skipper Richard Lowes misses his side’s home game against Shildon, but Ian King is available again.
Silksworth hope to build on a bright start, with their hosts Langley Park having to cope with a glut of key absentees.