Division One leaders Seaham Park are relishing their derby clash at Dawdon on Saturday.
Club official David Moorhead said: “This game is our local derby and cup final!
“We will welcome back Michael Walker and Thomas Ferguson and are going into the game with high hopes now that we are back to full strength.
“We have a lot of respect for Dawdon, who need points for survival, and we will certainly not underestimate them. It will be a tough game.
“We’re exactly halfway through the season, and we’re positive for the second half after going back to the top after last week’s game against Whiteleas.”
Title rivals Easington entertain Littletown, who are not having an easy time.
Head of Cricket Greg Arundel said: “Our ongoing issue with overseas players has continued and South African Justin Stevens has, unfortunately, had to go home due to injury.
“We’ve now brought in another player, Siddhesh Kinalekar from Mumbai.
“He comes highly recommended from last year’s overseas player Shashi Kadam, and will make his debut this weekend.
“Hopefully this will be a turning point in our season and better things await.”
Esh Winning, in fifth, host sixth-placed Durham City and skipper Stu Hall is keen to play.
“We are looking forward to another competitive game this weekend,” he said. “The lads are high in confidence after an excellent win against Easington. I was delighted with how the bowling unit responded to the excellent start made by Easington, on what was a very good wicket.
“We have one change, Danny Wilkinson is away, so Michael Bussey will replace him.
Castle Eden are unchanged, as they host third-placed Tudhoe.
Skipper Jonathan Brown said: “This week we are looking to continue our good form and win as we did against Durham City last week.
“Tudhoe had a good result last week too, so we’re expecting a tough game, however we’ll be going into the game full of confidence. Into the second half of the season, we’ll still push to win the league.
“We haven’t really played to the best of our ability, only in glimpses at times, but we want to keep pushing to move up the table.”
Horden welcome Philadelphia and both team will be keen for points, to get away from the relegation zone.
Skipper Carl Watson said: “We are expecting a tough game with them being near us points-wise. Our professional has said that their professional is a really good player, so it will be interesting to see him play.
“Going into the second half of the season we’ll be looking to start winning more games. We’re just under mid-table at the moment, however last year we had a similar start and finished second, so are expecting to be up there again at the end of the season.”
Philadelphia have Peter Greenwell back into the team, as does Jack McBeth who were both unavailable last week. Young Greg Halliday -a promising right arm spinner and batsman, who played the second half of last season in the first team - plays his first game of the season, now that he has completed his cricketing commitments with his school.
Making way for these three are Michael Hall, who wasn’t available, Jamie Parkinson and Mark Emmerson, who drop into the second team, who have won every game played under Kevin Hall, who is leading the side for the first time this season.
Whiteleas, in fourth, entertain Bill Quay and skipper Owen Peterson is urging his players to be on their guard, against opposition he deems as well drilled.
He said: “Since we moved up from the North East Durham League five seasons ago, we’ve played Bill Quay three times and have never beaten them. They are always tough opponents, with several experienced players who regularly perform well.
“It’s great going into games on a high and the lads are really looking forward to it.”
Selection-wise, Peterson welcomes back opening bat Ray McRae, who was a late withdrawal last Saturday following a severely bruised thumb, from a cup game the night before. Conor Elliot is unavailable, so batsman Nathan Ullah comes in to the fold.
Bill Quay have Michael Orridge and Chris Malley available again, so they are back to full strength for the local derby against Whiteleas.
“We need a big performance against them, as they seem to be going well and it will be a tough game,” commented skipper Alan Mustard.
In Division Two, Murton are third bottom and will be unchanged at home to leaders Crook Town.
Chairman Ian Graham said: “We know it’s going to be a difficult game against Crook. We’ve been struggling a bit this season and they’ve been performing well, so we’re just hoping we can get a result.
“Going into the second half of the season, we are hoping to improve a little and get a few good results.”
Marsden, in second place, welcome Peterlee and visiting Secretary Roy Simpson said: “We have lost our captain Paul Griffith, who has gone to work abroad and Shrey Bhatt has been promoted to captain.
“Last Saturday we drew, but should have won, but at least we’re not losing. Marsden are similar to us they are very up and down, but we always expect a good game from them.”
Ryhope are unchanged when they travel to Boldon CA. Assistant secretary Greg Dixon remarked: “We will go and try to win and the team are on a little bit of a run at the moment, so want to keep that momentum going.”
Silksworth host Evenwood and visiting Secretary Luke Bannister said: “This week we have to win, we should have last week, but dropped a few catches.
“We’ll then be halfway through the season, so we’ll see where we are and go from there. We’ve lost a couple of games and that has knocked us back a bit.
“Going into the second half, we just need consistency and we’ll finish where we deserve.”
Ushaw Moor are in third position and will be keen to win and keep up the pressure on the two teams above them, Marsden and Crook Town. They are at home and play Langley Park, who need points to get away from the relegation area.