NE Premier League: Zaheer back as Sunderland chase Ashbrooke success against Blaydon
Sunderland welcome lowly Blaydon to Ashbrooke in Division One on Saturday, boosted by the return of all-rounder Zaheer Shahbaz.
Chairman Mike Smith said: “We make one change. Zaheer is back in and replaces Andy Turns, who has work commitments.
“Zaheer normally plays in the firsts, but was out last week due to his unavailability.
“Although we are midway in the table, there is still plenty to play for, with the second half of the season about to commence.”
Blaydon will head to Ashbrooke in good spirits, following a welcome first victory against South Shields last week.
Washington entertain Willington at Harraton, but skipper Ash Thorpe misses the game due to a broken hand.
Tom Colledge returns from university, but Mark Bell is unavailable and Niall Cutter is his replacement.
Thorpe said: “It should be a close match. We need to get back to winning ways after a poorish run of late.”
Boldon, who fought for a home draw with Sunderland last weekend, entertain Gateshead Fell and make several changes.
Skipper Chris Ellison said: “Barry McCarthy is free from Durham duties and Ian Pattison is back in the side after injury. However, Gary Scott is still out and Nicholas Sampson-Barnes is on holiday, so Gareth Welsh retains his place.
“With that upheaval, the side needs to sharpen up its competitive edge, no matter who the opposition is. If that is done then improvements in form and results will be forthcoming.”
Leaders Burnopfield host third-top Burnmoor and will be missing their chief run scorer as John Oswell is on holiday, as is opener Cole Pearce.
Secretary Martin Oswell said: “Their replacements will have to step up and the side does welcome back both Jonny Pears and Gareth Breese.
“Though very handily placed in the league at present, the side wants to capitalise on their game in hand with the chasing pack and more of the same performances as before will be most welcome as we entertain our big rivals Burnmoor.”
Castle Eden, in fourth, are at South Shields.
Skipper Jonathan Brown said: “James O’Neill is out on his extensive holiday, so his replacement will be Benjamin Simpson, who has been biding his time in the seconds, but now steps up to try his luck with the big boys as keeper/batsman.
“The club is happy with the current position and form, but realise all form must be retained to keep the momentum going.”
Shields chairman Jim Elliott said: “We must dig in a bit more and show form across all disciplines of the game, batting, fielding and bowling, hopefully at the same time.
“Having said that, the side is a very young one, a policy adopted at the start of the season, in order to develop the cricket talent in the area.
“The batting needs more consistency in order to post 200+ scores, for the bowlers to attack.”
Brandon have the weekend off.