EASINGTON are the proud owners of one of five remaining unbeaten records in the newly-formed 26-team Readers Durham Cricket league, and in every sense they are the real surprise package among that select group.
Their unbeaten peers contain three former Senior League teams – champions Burnmoor, runners-up Castle Eden and Philadelphia – as well as County League champions Esh Winning.
Easington enjoyed a decent final season in the Coast League, finishing third, but a considerable distance behind champions Murton.
With just three former Coast League sides in the top 16, many of their former colleagues have clearly found the challenges of the new set-up demanding.
Not so Easington who seem to have pulled off a masterstroke with the close-season signing of Kamran Mansoor, who played for Seaham Park last year.
After a sensational all-round performance which swamped Silksworth last week, skipper Dane Wilson reflected on Mansoor’s contribution, saying: “He played majestically against the Silks, as he has done in previous games. His batting has been terrific all season and he is closing in on 500 runs already.”
Wilson suggests his side’s form has led to a change in emphasis, adding: “Our pre-season target was to finish in the top half, but we now want to keep this momentum going and keep the pressure on the teams above us.
“Undoubtedly, there are some strong sides at the head of the table, so we are really pleased to be rubbing shoulders with the likes of them and look forward to testing ourselves against the best sides in the league.”
Easington’s next test comes on Saturday when they go to Mansoor’s old stamping ground, Seaham Park, and they take a full strength side with Andrew Price back from holiday.
Park can also say that – for the first time this season.
They have faced lots of availability issues so far, using no fewer than 23 players in their first seven games, but with James and Thomas Ferguson joining Cavan McNicholas back on the Park bench they go into the game in better spirits.
Murton were the first to lower Marsden’s colours last week, victory taking them into top 14 territory, their main aim for this campaign.
But if the old adage is “never change a winning team”, they have not been taking any notice as a whole stack of players return for the trip to Horden.
Keith Chapman, Paul Smailes, Jordan and Aiden Vout, and possibly also James Watson and Ian King, will return.
Horden’s only absentee is Stephen McCoy, and they hope to be able to parade new signing Dave Gilbert, who has just transferred from Ryhope and joins brother Lee at the club.
He will make his debut if his registration goes through in time, but Max Bailey definitely plays upon his return from holiday.
Gilbert’s sudden departure has added to Ryhope’s woes, which include a side injury suffered by Chris Errington, with the prognosis a four-week lay-off, and the absence of both Adam Swansbury and Mickey Thorpe.
Ryhope’s recent run has seen them play the top three in consecutive weeks, the games against Esh Winning and Castle Eden being immediately followed by Saturday’s tough trip to Burnmoor.
But they are at least able to include Amar Purewal for his seasonal debut, while Chris Lawrence and Connor Cheal are also back.
Burnmoor show just one change, with David Lowther back from holiday.
Hylton have yet to win a game, but they go to Crook Town with hope after a decent showing last time out against Philadelphia, with the return of Kit Allan and Darren Walton providing another boost.
They also hope that new signing Ben Muir will make his debut, the Australian leg-spinner hailing originally from Melbourne. On the down side, Kevin Mustard and Liam Foster are unavailable while Adam Bewick is sidelined by an inter-costal strain.
Philadelphia are delighted with their progress and if they can keep their unbeaten run going for the next few weeks against some strong sides they will enter the second half of the campaign very well placed to make a late charge for honours.
By then, they will have played virtually all of the top sides and have, on paper, a much easier fixture list to contend with.
Phili should prove too strong for Shildon Railway on Saturday at Bunker Hill as the Railwaymen have struggled badly so far with just one win and seven defeats.
The hosts have to reckon without Mattie Haswell, who is attending a Stone Roses concert, while budding rock star David Craig is gigging. In come Peter Greenwell and James Davison.
Third-placed Castle Eden are gathering a head of steam, three comprehensive wins taking them well clear of the chasing pack, and they put out an unchanged line-up for the visit of Whiteleas.
Alan Beadle is handed a debut by Whiteleas, the 20-year-old batsman having had senior experience with Boldon CA, while Rob Scorer returns after a sprained ankle.
Silksworth have their strongest available side in the field when they entertain a Boldon CA team which includes David Batty, while Durham City’s new-found form will be tested by Kimblesworth and two in-form sides clash at Dawdon where Tudhoe are the visitors.