Here we go again, another double header of a weekend beckons for Readers Durham Cricket League teams as they prepare to begin the second half run in to a fascinating first season.
Just two weeks after the last dose of two in two days, sides will be stretched once more, particularly as there is a full round of F15 cup fixtures tomorrow night, a threesome which for many players will require the cashing in of a lot of brownie points with their families!
For Marsden, the demands are even greater as they also play in an outside cup tie on Monday evening, something which has necessitated the prioritisation of the league games ahead of the cup ties, with a clear decision taken to rest players to keep them fresh for league action.
Marsden are a happy camp these days, success on the pitch going hand in hand with progress off it, and whilst they will be on the road on both Saturday and Sunday, they are excited by the challenge that awaits them.
They begin with the short trip to Whiteleas for a local derby with added spice because it’s the first time the two sides have met.
Then the following day they get their chance to have a tilt at leaders Esh Winning, a challenge that holds no fears for them as they came to know their opponents quite well in the short time they spent in the County League.
In a ‘horse for courses’ selection, spinner Raja Usman returns to the Marsden team after missing last week’s match at Ryhope, and he takes the place of Peter Burn in an otherwise settled side that will turn out for both games.
With Colin Mann also on the mend after breaking his hand a few weeks ago, and expected to return to action shortly, Marsden look primed to continue the form which earned them eight victories in the first half of the season.
Unlike Marsden, Whiteleas don’t have to worry about the extra time pressures of being on the road as both their games are at home.
Saturday’s derby being followed by the visit of Horden on Sunday.
Home advantage may be needed as their last victory was back in late May, the recent dip in form seeing them drop into the ‘twilight zone’ of mid-table where every point is vital in the scramble to make a top 14 place.
Scott Oliver returns to bolster the home batting, and Peter Sowden has been passed fit after overcoming a groin injury which caused him to miss last week’s action.
Horden, who start their double with a home game against Ryhope, have one or two problems following the sudden departure of two players, fast bowler Max Bailey having transferred to Sacriston, and Stephen Brett moving to Eppleton, but at least they do have key players Lee Gilbert and Adrian Hedley available again.
Castle Eden are back to full strength this week, with Jude Dinushan returning from holiday, and they face a couple of tricky encounters with a trip to Evenwood being followed by a home game against a Bill Quay team, who have a full squad to choose from with Neil Cuskeran and Will Gardner available again.
Quay are another team who face two away days, their double starting with a daunting trip to Esh Winning.
And what of Burnmoor? Well it’s home comforts on both days for the title chasers, as they start off with Ushaw Moor and then entertain Evenwood, two teams who have blown hot and cold at times but who are well capable of causing upsets.
The Moor have Saturday shortages with skipper Alec Linsley, along with Graham Stoker, attending a wedding and David Lowther unavailable.
Mark Blunt will keep wicket and Michael Callaghan comes into the squad before all three day one absentees return for the Sunday action.
If the form book is anything to go by, Easington look likely to extend their 13 game unbeaten run and take advantage of any slip-up by the three teams above them in the table.
They start off with a home game against a struggling Peterlee, who have won just once so far, and then they go to Ryhope on Sunday, their hosts just one place above Peterlee in the table.
But the one piece of good news for their opponents is that the inspirational Kamran Mansoor will miss both games, and with last week’s batting hero Nathan Graham out of the second match, Brian Fenwick senior steps up, and Anthony Fox replaces Graham on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Ryhope hand first team debuts to youngsters Connor Johnson and Jack Tomlin with both Luke Anderson and Scott Lawrence missing.
Peterlee are without brothers Andrew and James Bates, but they do have Michael Garraghan back, although, they have currently unresolved concerns over player availability for Sunday’s home match with Boldon CA.
In other team news, CA welcome back Michael and Carl Purvis, but miss David Batty and David Carson.
Dawdon have to cope with the absence of the suspended Shoaib Akhtar, Chris Allan and Andy Kibble are unavailable for Hylton, but Kevin Mustard returns.
Murton will be missing Keith Chapman and James Watson, and Seaham Park include player number 27 for the season, but are happy to do so as former player David Morton is back from Manchester for the weekend.