SEAHAM Park are girding their loins for another weekend of cup final action as they try to break new ground.
Forever the bridesmaids, Park at long last put a knockout trophy in their cabinet last year when they won the Frank Lees Bowl.
But it was hoped that important milestone in their history would simply be a stepping stone to greater things, and they now have the opportunity to win the Andrew Dixon Cup for the first time when they meet up-and-coming Washington at Murton on Sunday (2pm).
While they were regarded as cup novices last summer, they have now turned themselves into specialists, this being their third consecutive final appearance after also playing in the Dixon final last year – they went down to Boldon CA in an excellent game on that occasion before exacting revenge on the same opponents in the Lees.
Park will start as favourites, even though Washington have enjoyed much-improved fortunes this year and are starting to turn on the style in the league, having moved into second place last weekend when ending Hylton’s unbeaten record.
In this five-bowler competition, Park believe they have the all-round strength to prosper, although two of their strikeforce, James Ferguson and Michael Evans, will miss out on the big game. There will therefore be a tricky decision for the club to make as to whether they risk playing Alan Dick in Saturday’s league match at Easington, or save him for the final.
Washington’s only absentee is spinner Andrew Ebdale. Contrary to a few rumours, star man Darren Hickey will be fit to play. However, the club also face a selection dilemma in that junior players James Thompson and Jordan Matthews have been placed in the invidious position of having to choose between playing in the Dixon showdown or the Alf Armes U15 final at Dawdon on the same afternoon.
That choice will be left to the players themselves, but one possible advantage Washington will have is that they play a league game on the Murton wicket on Saturday and so are handed a great chance to get acclimatised prior to the final the following day on the same ground.
This week’s top league match is at Seaham Harbour where the home club, buoyed by their success in taking over at the top of the table, entertain a Bill Quay team who have designs on the title themselves.
Harbour have an excellent record on home soil – after an opening-day defeat they have won every game since as their attack has dominated on a bowler-friendly surface. Their attack is further strengthened by the return of Peter Hambleton, although new boy Ryan Martin is away this week. Quay’s only change sees Neil Cuskeran promoted, with Berwick Hall unavailable.
Boldon CA face a tough game at unchanged Dawdon, and they will go there with significant doubts over whether Dave Tate will play. He fractured his eye socket and damaged his retina when hit while batting last week – he may try and play with a protective mask, but no unnecessary risks will be taken.
Elsewhere, Hylton look to get back to winning ways at Silksworth, while Ryhope will hope to get the better of visitors Peterlee.