NE Premier League: Academy youngsters determined to make title favourites fight hard for success
Chester-le-Street require just 20 points to wrap up the Premier Division title.
The Cestrians who finished runners up to South North last season, beat them last week at Roseworth Terrace, to eliminate Marcus North’s side from the title race and now face a derby against the Durham Academy youngsters at Ropery Lane, and a trip to second-top Newcastle, to complete their season.
Chester have been in tremendous form of late, winning an impressive eight games from their last nine in the league, with the other game abandoned.
They have timed their unbeaten run to perfection, but they will face another stiff task against the Academy. However, they have a full squad to pick from and are very likely to be unchanged.
Captain John Coxon enthused: “Last week was our best performance of the season. Quentin (Hughes) and Gurman (Randhawa) were outstanding with the ball and they put South North under a lot of pressure.
“Once we kept them down to the 200 mark, we were very confident of winning the game.
“Andrew Smith’s knock took the sting out of their attack, to help set up the win and showed his true class, to see us through to the end and win the game.”
Durham Academy, have Liam Trevaskis, Paul Greenwell and Matthew Potts back in their team and coach John Windows said: “It’s a brilliant match to look forward to and we will give them a run for their money.
“The lads will rise to the challenge and hopefully put on a good performance.”
At the other end of the table, Eppleton have a 23-point cushion over bottom-placed Gateshead Fell going into the final two games
It’s a very healthy lead, but they will look to make the most of home advantage against fifth-bottom Whitburn in Saturday’s last home match of the season.
Gateshead Fell entertain Newcastle at Eastwood Gardens, needing a win to keep alive their chances of another great, late-season survival.
Fell skipper Mark Lockey is hoping that Durham paceman Graham Onions will be available, while David Daley is back from holiday.
Locked said: “I had mixed emotions over the tie (against Durham Academy) last week, but, at the end of the day, we made up 10 points and we have to pleased about that.
“Newcastle will be very tough, but there is good rivalry though and we look forward to the challenge ahead.”
Newcastle, who must win themselves to stand a chance of pipping Chester-le-Street to the title on the final day of the campaign, have Tom Dias and Aftab Khan back, but James Cassidy is away.
Skipper Jacques Du Toit said: “We are aiming for runners-up and to win our last two games. We have fallen away from the title race, having had a poor August and simply not doing the basic things right.”
Hetton Lyons travel to South Shields and will be looking to win to leap-frog their opponents into fifth place.
Lyons finished sixth last year, so the chance to improve on that this term will be a big incentive.
Tynemouth will be pushing Newcastle all the way to try to finish as runners-up.
On Saturday, they entertain Benwell Hill, who have not won since mid-July and are still not safe from the drop.
Tynemouth skipper Ben Debnam said: “Unfortunately, we have left it too late (for the title), but we want to win our last two games and finish as runners-up if we can.”
Stockton, beaten in four of their last five games, host defending champions South North.