They think it’s all over……but it might not be!
The race for the Division One championship took what seemed like a decisive turn last week when leaders Esh Winning hammered out a maximum points victory against lowly Hylton, while Dawdon were losing their home game against Crook Town.
The net effect of those two results was that Esh increased their lead at the top of the table to a massive 41 points, and only a dramatic loss of form on their part would see them relinquish such an advantage in the remaining six games of the summer.
Given that they are unbeaten to date, and play bottom club Boldon CA on Saturday, while Dawdon have to go to Mainsforth, it would seem that that is more or less it!
One side for whom it is definitely over is Boldon CA as their relegation from Division One will be mathematically confirmed this weekend if they lose.
Given they have lost all their played games to date, and that they face the champions-elect, any other result would be the turn-up of this or, indeed, most other seasons.
But the club deserve great credit for the way they have conducted themselves in adverse times and have done really well to keep going against all the odds.
They are now only a month or so away from achieving their primary objective at the start of the season, which was to fulfil their commitments and provide a long-term future for the club.
They are probably the perfect example of what “the spirit of cricket” is all about.
Dawdon really do have to go for broke when they travel to Mainsforth, the only other unbeaten side in the division, as only wins will now keep the Green Drive men’s dreams of silverware alive.
But they will travel short-handed as Nathan Newton, Liam Cowell and Craig Price are all missing, while there is also a doubt over Ryan Consitt’s availability.
Given there could be four places to fill, selection of the replacements has been deferred.
One slight crumb of comfort is that their hosts have to reckon without one of their leading wicket-takers, Gary Cummings, for this one, and despite their unbeaten tag, they have not been entirely convincing, having won just six of their 15 matches.
At the opposite end of the table, the battle to avoid being the other side to join Boldon CA in slipping through the relegation trapdoor intensifies this weekend as the two primary candidates, Hylton and Horden, lock horns at the Billy Hardy Centre.
Hylton currently occupy the hot seat, with Horden one place and 17 points above them, although they do have that abandoned game in hand with a decision on that one due shortly.
Anything other than a Hylton win would mean there would be a lot of work for them to do in the final five games of the season, although they do appear to have much the easier run-in.
Horden have only lost twice, so their position is surprising, but with their final five opponents reading Durham, Dawdon, Philadelphia, Castle Eden and Esh Winning, plus the abandoned match against Mainsforth, they cannot afford any complacency.
The team news for them is positive, with Shaun Bradbury’s return putting them at full strength for the big showdown.
Elsewhere in the top flight, Easington expect to be at full strength, save for the long-term back injury to Adrian Hedley, when they entertain Durham City, Bill Quay will be missing last week’s match winner, Micky Orridge, when they go to Castle Eden, and Philadelphia play host to a Crook team who have lost just once in nine matches.
In Division Two, Seaham Park can move a step closer to wrapping up the promotion part of their campaign, although the second part, the title element, is not quite so cut and dry as it was a few weeks ago.
Park are 71 points ahead of joint third-placed Ushaw Moor and Ryhope. With both of them having played one game more, it would take a collapse of disastrous proportions for Seaham not to be a First Division side in a month’s time.
However, the championship is not so clear-cut. In the last four games, Burnopfield have reduced the deficit between the two sides by 42 points, and the difference is now just 34.
With Burnopfield’s next three games being against Silksworth, Houghton and Langley Park – the three bottom clubs with just three wins between them all season – it is possible that the head to head between the two top teams, on August 29, could be a title decider.
Park’s three games before then are at Peterlee on Saturday, where a rejuvenated home team could pose problems, followed by Evenwood and Murton.
In other Division Two news, Ryhope, for so long promotion contenders, have Jack Tomlin and Connor Pearson back when they entertain Whiteleas this weekend.
The visitors able to include the returning Ryan Hale and Bob Scorer, and Marsden, fresh from a week’s break, have Paul Hobson back for the trip to a buoyant Littletown, who are fresh from their best win of the season last week when they defeated Whiteleas by 77 runs.