WHITBURN cannot wait for Saturday’s Dukes North East Premier League Premier Division home clash with Sunderland as it gives them another chance to show home supporters how far they have come in the last couple of years
Last week’s stunning victory over Chester-le-Street proved a major milestone, not only because it was their first win at Premier level, but also because it demonstrated they can compete with the very best.
Though, 24 hours later, the Villagers suffered a chastening National Club Cup exit to York, that had more to do with player availability when a much weakened team took the field.
The real barometer of just what the team can do was the way they coped successfully with several pressure points in the game against the Cestrians, notably when they were 55-5 and still needing another 66 runs for victory.
Young Australian Scott Condy showed he had the bottle for battle when he took the attack back to the much vaunted Chester attack, and he has proved a more than useful close-season acquisition for the club.
Overseas amateur Condy, who is 21, plays second grade cricket in his home state of Victoria and came to the country as one third of a trio of Australian youngsters who are holidaying in the North East this summer, the other two playing in the Durham Cricket League.
The medium fast bowler, who claimed impressive bowling figures of 3-14 from 10 overs to go with his crucial runs against Chester, will take his place in the line-up to face Sunderland, and there is a welcome return to action of leading batsman Neil Ayre to put the hosts at full strength for the first league derby against the Ashbrooke side since 1999.
Sunderland are one of just three teams still clinging to an unbeaten record, although their relatively modest points return sees them in the bottom half of the table.
They have to reckon without the services of Greg Applegarth, Simon Brown and Imran Shah this week, and will therefore be keen to learn whether Usman Arshad will be required to travel with Durham to Hove this week.
Hetton Lyons need to regroup following their surprise one-wicket defeat at Blaydon last time out, and they cannot afford to be off colour again as they face the major challenge of hosting leaders South North.
Lyons could do worse than take a leaf out of the Bulls’ book.
They are now 12 points clear of the pack after shrugging off the almighty thumping they took at Ropery Lane a fortnight ago, recovering so well that they took a near maximum points haul when bouncing back with victory over reigning champions Stockton.
Both Lyons and South North expect to be unchanged for this one.
Chester-le-Street make the trip to Stockton, where all-comers were vanquished last season, but the defeat at Gosforth has opened up a chink in the title holders’ armour.
With their three Durham players unlikely to feature, with Keaton Jennings and Jamie Harrison on first-team duty and Josh Bousfield struggling with injury, the chance is there for the Cestrians to improve upon their current sixth position.
Chester hand another opportunity to the team which lost narrowly at Whitburn, meaning Max Morley continues to be sidelined by injury.
The club were delighted with youngster George Harrison, who carried his bat to record his maiden Premier League half-century in that last game so he keeps his place.
The Durham Academy hope to get the chance to play at the Emirates this week.
They were scheduled to play there a fortnight ago, but the fixture became a victim of the weather and added to their record of three draws from three matches.
They put on a really strong batting display at Ashbrooke last week, with James Thompson excelling with a classy century, and he should feature again in a settled line-up to face Newcastle.
Saturday’s other matches have Gateshead Fell hosting Blaydon and Tynemouth heading to Benwell Hill.
Sunday sees the next round of National Club Cup games, with Lyons hosting Harrogate and Chester making the trip to North Yorkshire to take on Richmondshire.