Durham Cricket League: Dawdon skipper Gale sets his sights on title tilt

Murton. Flying high in the Durham League. Back, from left: Ian King, Lewis Aiken (wicket keeper), Matthew Aiken. Chris Winn, Phumzile Yiba, Ricardo Nobrega, Thomas Spinks. Front:  Sam Sanderson, Jordan Vout, Aiden Vout, Ben Wicling
Murton. Flying high in the Durham League. Back, from left: Ian King, Lewis Aiken (wicket keeper), Matthew Aiken. Chris Winn, Phumzile Yiba, Ricardo Nobrega, Thomas Spinks. Front: Sam Sanderson, Jordan Vout, Aiden Vout, Ben Wicling
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Two successive wins have lifted Dawdon up to second place in the Division One table.

Now, with two home games to come, the Green Drive outfit’s skipper is confident that the race for the title is not as one-horsed as might be thought.

“Burnopfield have a healthy lead at the moment, but we are only six games into a 22-game season, and I believe they are catchable – never say never,” was Steven Gale’s view on a promotion race that currently sees Burnopfield 51 points ahead of his own side.

“We didn’t do ourselves any favours in a couple of games earlier in the season, but we are playing well now, so we’ll keep plugging away and hope they slip up.”

Dawdon entertain Crook on Saturday, with Bill Quay the visitors the following week, and they make one change for the Town game with James Dent sidelined by a finger injury. Craig Price comes in to replace him.

What does give hope to the chasing pack is that Burnopfield have two tough-looking games to come.

They are at Easington on Saturday, and then next weekend they go to Seaham Park, two sides with their own ambitions for success.

Easington have been somewhat erratic in their form, having won three and lost three, but they are still handily placed in fourth spot and skipper Dane Wilson is looking forward to the challenge.

“In the games we have lost, we haven’t done certain aspects of the game very well,” admitted Wilson.

“We have stuttered along, but we are still up there. Saturday will be a big test – it could be said our season hinges on Saturday and we will certainly be in the mood to do well.”

Easington make a couple of changes, with Ryan Higgins, who has been scoring runs regularly, unavailable for this one, but Jordan Wilson and Jason Moses are back in harness.

Philadelphia are just one place and three points behind Easington, with champions Esh Winning the next visitors to Bunker Hill.

Phili have won three out of six, drawing with Durham City and Bill Quay and losing to Burnopfield, and skipper Shaun Smith is happy enough with his team’s progress. “We’ve made an encouraging start and are very pleased with our pro, Indian Armajeet Singh, who bowls really fast,” said Smith.

“When the wickets become harder, he will prove an even bigger handful.”

Phili do have some selection issues this week. Missing are Ian Hauxwell (injured hamstring), Tom Action, Tommy Wray and Mark Emmerson, so Alex Davison steps up, with Gary Embleton returning along with Mattie Noble.

Esh include the returning Lee Goodwin and Michael Oughton in their squad.

Seaham Park are another team to enjoy two home games in a row. They start off with Castle Eden this weekend, and then follow on with the Burnopfield bash.

Another to have won three and lost three, club spokesman Michael McNicholas understands the challenges his team face, saying: “We need more consistency with the bat – it was a poor team batting performance last Saturday.

“It’s another tough game this weekend against a good Castle Eden side, although it’s nice to be at home after three on the road!

“This is probably the most competitive league we have ever played in, with everybody capable of beating each other.”

Park are unchanged, while the Castle will be missing Phil Wimpenny, with Ryan Ball also still away.

In Saturday’s other top-flight games, Durham City are able to include both Will Dobson and Andrew Hutchinson for their game at Horden, while Bill Quay will look to put some distance between themselves and the relegation places when they host struggling Hylton.

Jeff Tudor will definitely play for Quay this week, as will Michael Towns. Former Hylton skipper Alan Mustard will face his old side for the first time since departing at the end of last season.

Peterlee remain as proud leaders of Division Two, but they are set to be tested when they play at the rapidly improving Murton, who have won their last two on the trot, including last week’s impressive display against promotion-chasing Whiteleas.

Murton chairman Ian Graham said: “We are definitely seeing the benefits of having a settled team, with the results of the last few weeks, and hopefully we will carry this forward into the game with Peterlee.”

Murton expect to be unchanged again.

Ryhope were another team in form last week, defeating Marsden by five wickets, and they will be confident of making further progress when they entertain a Boldon CA side who have been showing signs of improvement in recent times.

The home team have to cope without Connor Cheal, who is sidelined by a hamstring problem. With John Minnis on holiday, they have brought in Liam Kirk and Chris Lawrence, the latter after an impressive century for the second team last week.

Boldon CA will be missing Karl Birkett after athletically damaging a hamstring last week, but Mark Cox returns from the races.

Having tasted defeat for the first time, Whiteleas hope to bounce back when they visit in-form Littletown, but they are missing three players, with Owen Peterson, Nick Quinn and Lewis Surtees out, although Steve Martin, Alex Thomas and Andrew Potts all return.

Elsewhere, Silksworth face a tricky test as they look to secure their first win of the season at Ushaw Moor, while Houghton entertain Evenwood and Marsden head to Langley Park.