A change in leadership was followed by a change in fortune for Houghton.
After losing all of their opening nine games, skipper Gavin Keen stepped aside to be replaced by Niki Lawson, and he was in charge when the Leyburn Grove club recorded their first ever Durham Cricket League win when they beat Langley Park last Sunday.
Buoyed by this opening success, Houghton are further boosted by the returns this week of Martin Gill, Craig Nield, Lee Husband and Keen.
Nowhere is the value of winning cricket demonstrated more impressively than at Seaham Park. Two wins in two days last weekend made it eight in all this summer, and with all their major rivals in Division Two continuing to slip up they are now 46 points clear of the chasing pack.
All this means they will go into Saturday’s home game against rock-bottom Houghton as overwhelming favourites to put another tick in the wins column.
Ryhope host Murton, and they replace Scott Lawrence and Joe McQuillan. Murton just have one doubt as Keith Chapman missed the last game through illness.
Dawdon emerged from the hectic double header as the Division One leaders and, the longer the season goes on, the more convincing becomes their case to be regarded as genuine title contenders.
Last Sunday’s five draws in the six top flight matches took the number of matches ending in stalemate this season up to 55 per cent, and while the average has been increased by a number of wet weekends, it looks ever more likely that the teams prepared to gamble on winning are the ones who will prosper in the long run.
It certainly seems that Dawdon fall into that category, their adventurous approach against Hylton last time out almost backfiring, but clearly well worth the risk.
They racked up a formidable total of 286-8 in just 38 overs and then declared, allowing Hylton 57 overs to chase – which they almost did before ending two runs short in the run fest on 284-9.
Secretary Steve Dent is delighted with his side’s showing to date, but is not counting any chickens. He said: “The Hylton game could have gone either way at the end, with all results still possible as we went into the final overs.
“It was pretty tense, but a great game to watch. We’re approaching the halfway mark in the season now so to be on top of the pile at this stage is good, but we know there’s a lot of cricket still to be played and we need to keep up our run of good form.”
This weekend’s matches do, indeed, mark the exact halfway point, and Dawdon host Philadelphia, who have drawn six of their 10 matches and languish in the bottom half of the table.
Castle Eden are joint second with Esh Winning, and 11 points behind Dawdon. They visit Durham City on Saturday.
Esh Winning go to Horden, where the home side remain embedded in a relegation battle, so it will be interesting to see how the hosts approach this challenge – Horden have drawn eight of their 10 games, including both of last weekend’s matches.