HERE we go again!
Another double header awaits clubs this weekend, and there are a number of crucial games in both Readers Durham Cricket League divisions which will have a significant bearing on the hopes and aspirations of several sides.
And it looks to be prime time on Sunday in the top flight as the top four teams clash head on – leaders Burnmoor entertain second-placed Dawdon, and the two clubs directly below them, Tudhoe and Esh Winning, also face off.
In the Second Division, the two days see leaders Durham City away to promotion-seeking Seaham Park, and then entertaining second-placed Bill Quay.
Burnmoor eased back to pole position in the top flight last week, but they are just 10 points ahead of Dawdon and have just been hit by a major blow with skipper Alec Linsley facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines after suffering a compound fracture of the hand when keeping wicket last week.
The full extent of the injury is not yet known, but, with multiple finger fractures, it could even be the end of his season.
That creates a dilemma as, besides his undoubted skills behind the stumps, Linsley often contributes crucial runs down the order.
Paul Craig took over glove duties when his captain was injured last week, and he will continue in that role.
Moor begin their weekend with a trip to Boldon CA. With Gary Brown and Owen Lancaster also unavailable, McKenzie Wright comes back in after injury, and 17-year-old Michael Williamson is handed an opportunity. Brown and Lancaster return on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Boldon CA have their own problems to cope with.
Overseas pro Shashank Singh is out for a couple of weeks with a hamstring injury, Lee Jackson has moved abroad for work, and, with Gary Hewitt and Ian Male also unavailable, the club will need to dig deep into second-team resources for both matches.
They are also in action at Hylton on Sunday.
However, there are no such issues for Dawdon who, with Liam Cowell returning, are up to optimum strength for their double, which begins with a home game against an Easington side currently locked in the drop zone, but who have just signed Ryhope’s powerful former Horden batsman Adrian Hedley.
Another club suffering injury woes are Castle Eden.
Their professional, Prateek Dabholkah, has torn a cartilage in his shoulder and is to return home as there is little chance of recovery before the end of the season.
The club will look for a replacement pro, but, at this point in the season, they tend to be fairly thin on the ground. The Castle entertain Crook Town on Saturday before going to Philadelphia for their second match. Alan Unsworth and John Spellman junior will play.
It’s a home double for Phili as they begin by welcoming Horden to Bunker Hill. Skipper Shaun Smith returns to lead the side, and Stephen Wright is also back, but while Lee Innes will play in the first game he misses out on Sunday and will be replaced by Mark Emmerson.
Phili also have a rearranged DH1 Horner Cup tie at home to Lanchester tonight.
Hylton are another club whose players have been trekking to Accident and Emergency.
Liam Foster broke his thumb and wrist when falling awkwardly while attempting a catch, and his season could also be over. James Waller does return for Saturday’s visit of Tudhoe which precedes the Boldon CA clash.
Seaham Park are presented with a real opportunity to make an impression on the Division Two promotion race as they start off with a home game against leaders Durham City, and follow up with a visit to Whiteleas who are currently third but with a game in hand.
The Park are almost at full strength, although they will be missing in-form bowler Ali Watson on Saturday as he is attending a wedding. However, Andrew Worthy is set to play following his return from work.
Elsewhere across the hectic weekend, Ryhope go into their two in two minus Adrian Hedley, following his move to Easington which came out of the blue. They also have four additional absentees so have to dig deep for their matches at Ushaw Moor, and then at home to Peterlee.
Keith Chapman is struggling with a back injury and so is highly doubtful for Murton’s home game against Whiteleas and the trip to Shildon Railway, although the Vout brothers, along with Alan Welburn, do return.
Silksworth, who have a chance to improve their lot near the foot of the table with games at Peterlee and then at home to Langley Park, have several absentees across the two days with Jonny Hayes one of those filling in.