Old rivalries are set to be renewed this weekend when Seaham Park entertain Dawdon in the first league derby between the two sides for three years.
It’s not too long ago that all three Seaham teams, Park, Harbour and Dawdon, were in the same set-up which ensured six money-spinning clashes in the same season, but Harbour’s elevation to the NEPL along with Park’s brief sojourn in the DCL’s second tier, stripped the town of the big games.
But now the bragging rights are up for grabs again with both teams determined not to give an inch in the pre-match mind games.
Park were set back on their heels by their opening day hammering at Easington but, they expect to be in a much better place come Saturday, particularly as Siddharth Chitnis is expected to arrive in the country imminently.
He was a serious miss at Easington, as were Mark Race and Thomas Ferguson, and all three will make their seasonal debuts in the white hot derby atmosphere.
The disappointment of that first result was increased by John Sample breaking down with injury again, but he will still feature as a batsman.
Park spokesman Michael McNicholas feels rivals Dawdon present a real challenge: “We’re really looking forward to the derby – we’ve missed it for the last three years.
“We know it will be a tough game as Dawdon will be one of the favourites to win the league.”
Dawdon, who opened their account with a draw against Durham City, felt they played well enough with Bavesh Patel impressing with a few runs and a decent bowling spell.
Indeed, Dawdon had City 89-7 in pursuit of 173-8, but couldn’t get out the pairing of Andrew Hutchinson and Ian Conn, who defied them for 75 balls to claim a share of the spoils. Dawdon go into the derby with an unchanged team.
Castle Eden received a pre-season blow when visa issues meant that the signing of their original overseas player fell through, but they hope to tie up his replacement shortly, with South African Tebogo Mokwena expected to arrive some time next week.
Ahead of that, they entertain Philadelphia, and they will have one debutant on display with university student James Wilkes-Green, who has Sussex Premier League experience, penciled in.
A drawn Bunker Hill match against Bill Quay, full runs left Phili pleased enough as chairman Malcolm Pratt confirmed: “We’re happy with the start made, with captain Shaun Smith and Shaun Hauxwell in fine form with the bat on an excellent wicket despite all the rain.
“We were also impressed with Indian pro Armajeet Singh, who looks very quick and a decent bat.”
Phili make one enforced change with Mattie Noble in for Gary Embleton.
One of the surprises on last week’s team sheets was Ian Conn. After many years with Burnmoor, the bowler has joined Durham City, and he picked up two wickets on his debut as well as presenting a broad bat to defy Dawdon victory.
He features again in City’s game at Esh Winning, but Nick Howe misses out – his replacement has not yet been determined.
Champions Esh, stunned by the manner of their defeat at Burnopfield, expect to be in much better shape this weekend with several key players set to make their debuts.
John Carmedy and David Watson return, while new overseas pro, Pakistani first-classer Jibran Khan, is due in the country for the game.
Elsewhere in the top flight, Horden hope to include new signing Mark Wood in the team to entertain Bill Quay, although, that will depend on his transfer from Marsden being registered in time.
Hylton look like having to wait a while for the arrival of Suhrawadi Shuvo, but other than that they are at full strength for the visit of Easington, who expect to showcase Indian Sujit Nayak.
With just three games managing to be played in the second tier last week, the leadership of Division Two is shared by the two sides who were able to force a victory – Houghton and Marsden.
For Houghton, this represented a major advance on last season’s form which saw them as the whipping boys with just two wins and 22 defeats.
They host Whiteleas and their opponents already recognise the different challenge that will be presented.
Leas skipper Owen Peterson will be warning his players not to take anything for granted saying, “Houghton, like most sides this season, have recruited new players, including an overseas professional. League positions from last year mean nothing.”
All-rounder Nick Quinn, signed from Marsden, makes his debut for Leas. Vice-captain Steve Martin and Nathan Ullah are unavailable, with youngster Lewis Surtees the second addition. Houghton have Lee Husband available.
Ryhope are one of the six teams hoping to get some cricket. Indian Sagar Udeshi should get his chance to face Ushaw Moor, who have sprung a surprise by signing Jamie Robinson from Brandon in the last few days.