EPPLETON have been hit hard by the news that bowler Joe Dodd has decided to retire from the game at just 32, having failed in his battle to overcome a serious shoulder injury.
The former Murton player suffered the injury a few years ago and, having battled through two operations, it was thought his rehabilitation was more or less complete when he enjoyed a wonderful 2012 Durham Senior League season for the club in which he was their leading wicket taker with 47 league victims – an aggregate only topped by two others in the rain-blighted campaign.
Dodd, a male model, broke down after just a few overs last Saturday and decided enough was enough, news that upset club secretary John Smithson.
He said: “It’s devastating for such a good cricketer to have to give up the game at such an age, and it will also hit the club hard.
“He was our top bowler last year and will be difficult to replace. But at least he could add a small note of humour: ‘We’ve also lost the best looking cricketer in the league!’”
Eppleton have made a steady, if unspectacular, start to life in the Premier League, with two drawn matches leaving them in a group of teams in mid-table all on 30 points, but, with not a single side left with a 100 per cent record, they are only 12 points adrift of leaders Whitburn.
This Saturday, they enjoy home advantage against South Hetton and make just one enforced change. with Callum Jefferson stepping up to replace Dodd.
Their opponents are also in the same boat, with Bradley Davis called up to replace their sole absentee, new signing Ryan Dowse, a former Bradford League batsman heading off to Wembley to support Bradford City in the League Two play-off final against Northampton.
Ashley Thorpe does not let the grass grow under his feet.
Just a week after announcing that Washington and Paul Hindmarch had gone their separate ways after the former County man committed himself to a full YB40 campaign with the Unicorns, which would have seriously impinged on his availability for the club, the gap has been filled, with not just one but two new players.
The Aussie connection has obviously worked well because Mark Woodhead has been signed from Durham City, where he was captain.
Added to that is the exciting signing of Ben Harmison, who is contracted to Kent but will now play for Washington when not on County duty.
Both are expected to make their debuts in Saturday’s home game against Felling, with Dan Talbot and Stephen Cuthbertson unavailable.
With Andy McCord still missing, Boldon are delighted that James Coyne is back for the tough-looking trip to Brandon.
Skipper Chris Ellison felt that some injudicious shot selection was primarily responsible for last week’s defeat to Willington, and he is not worried by the fact that the club sit at the foot of the early-season table – as he put it “we are only 28 points off the top”.
In the weekend’s other games, Seaham Harbour select 17-year-old Nathan Corkhill for the trip to Willington, replacing the holidaying Andy Stephenson, while table-topping Whitburn will face an unchanged Sacriston line-up, their visitors happy enough that, despite drawing their first two games, a couple of strong performances have taken them to the brink of victory on each occasion.