Durham Cricket League: Epic battle reaches peak in hunt for promotion places
What an end to the season we have to look forward to in the race for promotion, as any two from eight, could conceivably go up from Division Two.
With at least 120 points to play for, and more for some teams, the race could not be more exciting.
Leaders Littletown can boost their title ambitions when they take on Peterlee at Cross Street.
If Littletown win, they will move further ahead, while Peterlee are determined to upset their hosts and reduce the 50-point gap to top spot.
The leaders have Paul Cassell and Carl Purvis returning and skipper Gregg Arundel said: “We are very positive and we will be playing to win. We have played well to get where we are.”
Whiteleas, currently in the second promotion place, will be hoping to keep their promotion push alive when they visit lowly Silksworth.
Following last Saturday’s defeat to Littletown, Leas trail the leaders by 34 points and are 13 points ahead of third-placed Evenwood.
Stand-in skipper Steven Martin is not taking anything for granted against the bottom side.
Martin, in charge as Owen Peterson is on holiday, said: “Of course we were disappointed with last week’s result, but there were some positives to take out of the game.
“We’re still in contention for a promotion spot and, with four games to play, there will be further twists and turns.
“Fortunately, results went our way last Saturday, so we don’t want to slip up again and will be on our guard against Silksworth.”
Martin misses opening bowler Chris Nichol, so Nick Quinn will open the attack following his excellent five-wicket haul last week. Batsman Lewis Surtees is called into the side and will be joined by Gary Frater.
Marsden, who are level on points with Peterlee, face lowly Houghton at Leyburn Grove and will fancy their chances of a win there.
But the home side will want to finish as high as possible. They have skipper Martin Gill unavailable, so Niki Lawson takes over the role and in come Jon Barron, Mackenzie Wright and Matthew Lovett.
Evenwood are just 19 points behind Whiteleas and they travel to Ushaw Moor, who are 29 points behind in seventh, but they have a game in hand, so it’s set for an intriguing game indeed.
Murton are eighth, 47 points behind Whiteleas but with a game in hand, ahead of the visit of Ryhope, who are just 18 points adrift of Whiteleas.
It promises to be another fascinating game which could go either way.
Murton are still without skipper Ben Wicling, due to a foot injury, and he could be struggling for the rest of season. Ian King deputises as skipper.
Langley Park will be at full strength apart from skipper Paul Rayner, who is absent when they play Boldon CA at Low Moor Road.
James Coxon replaces Rayner, who said: “We aim to win four out of the last five games to finish as high as possible.”
The visitors welcome junior Adam Crooks into the team, after he scored 111 not out for the juniors. Andrew O’Connell also returns.
If results go their way at on Saturday, Burnopfield could be crowned Division One champions by the end of play.
They lead by a huge 65 points and are at home to Seaham Park, who are languishing just 29 points above the relegation trap door, badly in need of points to be sure of playing in the top flight next season.
Jack Hughes may be available to add to the home side’s strength.
Closest challengers Dawdon travel to Bill Quay, who are in even more need for vital relegation points, as they are only 24 points from the dreaded drop zone.
Dawdon skipper Stephen Gale said: “As long as we play to our ability, we will have a good chance of a win.”
The Green Drive outfit are unchanged and Quay have Neil Cuskeran back in the team, but John Newstead is away on holiday.
Captain Jeff Tudor said: “It will be a tough game, but we are confident of a victory.”
Crook, in the second slot for relegation, with Hylton already doomed, are desperate for points to try to catch Bill Quay and/or Seaham Park.
They are at home to on-song Philadelphia, who won sit in third place, and the Bunker Hill men are sure to make life tough for their hosts.
Durham City can leapfrog seventh-placed Easington by winning away to the colliery outfit.
Fourth-top Horden, at home to fifth-placed Esh Winning, will play the same team as last week and skipper Carl Watson said:”Last week, the bowlers did a good job, but we need to find some all-round consistency in our game.”
Bottom club Hylton, not mathematically relegated just yet despite being 108 points adrift of safety, are at home to Castle Eden, who have had a decent run of late and will be looking to finish the season strongly.
Castle Eden welcome back Alan Unsworth.