AFTER the agony of relegation in 2013 comes the ecstasy of promotion in 2014, with South Shields having everything but their little toe back in the Dukes NEPL Premier Division following their defeat of Brandon on Saturday.
While there is still an outrageously implausible chance that they could be overhauled on the final day, the reality is that the Shieldsmen are heading back to the top flight from where they were so unceremoniously dumped at the end of last season after failing to win a single game.
This time, they quickly erased those relegation nightmares by winning two of their first three matches, while Saturday’s latest win was their eighth in 17 games during which they have suffered defeat just twice.
The Shieldsmen overcame the challenge of Brandon on Saturday, and victory left them 30 points clear of Washington who could still theoretically catch them by taking maximum points in next week’s meeting between the pair and leaving Shields with none.
That would tie the teams, and with both having then won the same number of matches it would go down to net run rate. But, in reality, the champagne is in the chiller.
The match at Brandon looked like being blighted by the weather, but after a delayed start there were 93 overs left in the game with the home side unable to use up their full quota after being pegged back to 181-9 inside 39 overs.
And it was only a late blast by Ed Watson (56 from 44 balls) that enabled the home side to recover from a shaky 128-7 after Sam Taylor-Gell claimed four wickets.
It was then over to Aussie Tim David, who hit his second consecutive century to take his team to the crucial victory and himself well clear as the division’s top run-scorer. David cracked 17 fours and a six in his unbeaten 103 to earn his team the glory with more than 10 overs to spare, Michael Fishwick (45) being instrumental in helping David claw Shields out of a mini-hole on 24-3.
Washington had little trouble in collecting a maximum points haul from their game against struggling South Hetton, Dan Shurben top-scoring with 68 from 86 balls as the home team posted 206-3 in 49 overs before declaring.
South Hetton then simply melted away as Melvyn Betts (6-24 from 10.4 overs) and Jak Gaff (4-34 from 10 overs) blasted them out for a paltry 64.
Eppleton (213-7 in 50 overs) saw their faint hopes of a late title challenge disappear as they were held to a draw by Felling (233-8 in 55 overs), despite a superb knock of 80 from 91 balls by Dean Musther.
That result earned them just 11 points and put them completely out of the picture, their best hope being the runners-up spot if they can overhaul the 15-point lead Washington now hold over them.
Boldon put three successive defeats firmly behind them when they defeated hosts Sacriston by 34 runs after setting a challenging 229-9 in 50 overs. Skipper Chris Ellison led from the front with 51 from 71 balls, and Nick Sampson-Barnes hit nine boundaries in his rapid 61, and this despite the efforts of Ian Hunter and Mo Ali, who shared six wickets between them.
The Sacriston run chase then got into real difficulties as Neil Johnson grabbed four wickets, and they looked done for on 125-8 before Graham Hubber launched a blitz from the number nine slot, cracking six fours and five sixes in a rumbustious 58 not out from just 30 balls, although his rousing effort came to nothing as the final wicket fell on 195.
Seaham Harbour (179-6) and Willington (165-5) had to settle for a share of the spoils after 26 overs were lost to the rain.