DESPITE the disappointment of defeat in a desperately close finish at South Shields last week, Eppleton are determined to pick themselves up, dust themselves down, and start all over again as three days of cricket beckon over the coming weekend, writes Chris West.
With qualification already assured in the Co-operative Funeralcare T20 after three successive wins, tomorrow night’s final group game at home to Durham Academy has no real pressure attaching to it other than gaining the kudos of finishing top of Group D.
But the Church Road men have another home game on Sunday, in the Banks Salver quarter-final, when they entertain Newcastle in a match they will see as distinctly “winnable” given that their opponents have only won once in 10 Premier Division outings so far.
The Shields defeat still rankles a little as the one that got away.
After bowling their hosts out for just 102, Eppleton’s subsequent despair of a collapse to 15-5, and then 34-6, gave way to excitement when the last pair lifted the score from 90-9 to 100-9, only to fall three runs short of a remarkable win that would have cemented their position as leaders.
But defeat left them trailing the Wood Terrace outfit by 14 points, so Saturday’s trip to Brandon represents a pretty tough follow-up, even though their hosts are a long way from being at their best at the moment.
Callum Jefferson is the one absentee this week, but Eppleton are hopeful that Craig Scurr will pass a late fitness test and return to the team after four weeks on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.
South Shields experienced the opposite emotions last week, as chairman Jim Elliott summed up: “For the neutral, it must have been a fantastic game to watch and there were plenty of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ towards the end.
“When you’re involved with one of the teams, however, it can be less enjoyable! Credit to Eppleton, as, despite the fact they will be disappointed to have lost such a tight match, the game was played in a great spirit.”
Shields face a tough game themselves as they entertain a Washington team who are starting to come good. Both clubs expect to field unchanged sides on Saturday.
The hectic four games in four days last weekend seemed to catch up with Sacriston – they lost all three cup ties, and ended up with a poorer share of the spoils than Washington in their league game.
But they are still very much in the title race, having the same number of points as Eppleton and also now carrying the only unbeaten record in the division.
That record is put on the line in a home match with South Hetton, who bring in Niall Heron to replace Tony Murphy, who is at the Glastonbury Festival.
In Saturday’s other games, Boldon have to reckon without the services of Anthony Brown and Neil Johnson for their match at Seaham Harbour, but they delay selection to do a fitness check after tomorrow night’s T20 tie at Washington.
Felling bring in Mike Malthouse and Andrew McNally to replace Lee Hargreaves and Dave Dent when they play at Willington.