By Chris West
It’s now or never for Burnmoor as they get their final chance to snatch league glory out of a frustrating season.
Fourteen draws in 19 matches tells its own story, yet Burnmoor are still in with an outside chance of tipping the title scales when they travel to Kimblesworth on Saturday to take on the league leaders.
But Moor have to defeat the table-toppers otherwise their 2011 challenge is over.
Kimblesworth’s simple philosophy has been to try to win matches and not worry too much about whether they need to bat first or not. With Burnmoor needing a 30-point return from the game, that would suggest the visitors will almost certainly be taking first knock.
And central to any maximum points planning is batsman Jimmy Daley.
Regardless of opposition, the master blaster can take the game and the breath away with his first innings assaults. Though he missed last week’s match, Burnmoor hope he will feature this weekend as they shake the championship dice one last time.
With skipper Gary Brown sidelined for the rest of the season, and Michael Callaghan away, there is also a slight doubt over Mohammad Zahid’s availability which Moor hope to resolve by Saturday.
Kimblesworth are now reconciled to being without the injured Michael Fishwick for the rest of the season, the classy batsman having split the palm of his hand when fielding a couple of weeks ago. Other than that, they are at full strength.
The perfect scenario for second-placed Boldon would be a Burnmoor win or a draw. Either result would provide the opportunity for them to cut the 12-point gap on the leaders, although they face a really tough game themselves – a derby at in-form Whitburn.
After writing Nick Sampson-Barnes off to the merchant navy for the rest of the season, there is now a possibility he could be available for this match. With Graham Fox back, Boldon could be at full strength.
Fourth-top Whitburn have Craig Smith and Paul Cook back in the fold, although Neil Johnson is wedding-bound and Harry Thursby is away.
With the top four meeting head on, it would be easy to forget the other end of the table, but, for Philadelphia, their home game against Eppleton has taken on massive proportions after their defeat at Boldon last week saw them plunge to the foot of the table.
A few weeks ago, Senior League clubs voted that there would be no relegation this season, but the fall-out from that decision in pyramid terms led to another meeting being convened this week to debate this further.
With uncertainty shrouding the issue, the safest thing for any club at the wrong end of the table would be to ensure they don’t finish with the wooden spoon, and Phili at least have two first-teamers returning this week, with Sean Smith and David Craig both playing.
Durham City, who are just one point above Phili, are able to include the returning Mike Elliott for their trip to Norton.
Horden are at South Hetton, while Felling visit Castle Eden.
Clubs, players and spectators are reminded that league games, from now until the end of the season, commence at 1pm.