Castle Eden are riding high after three consecutive maximum points victories lifted them eight places up the Division One table and into top spot.
Wins over Boldon CA, Bill Quay and Crook Town have banished the early-season indifference of three draws and a defeat, and the club is relishing the trip to Mainsforth on Saturday, when they get the chance to topple one of the teams who are also expected to be among the front runners for the championship.
Mainsforth are one of just three remaining unbeaten sides, but five draws from their seven matches reflects a problem in being unable to finish opponents off despite dominating in several of those games.
Castle Eden will travel with a full complement of players following the return of Phil Winpenny from work commitments and Richard McGlasham from holiday, while Mainsforth have to reckon without the services of Rob Chismon so John Sweeney is recalled.
Dawdon sit second, just one point behind Castle Eden, but they could come up against a refreshed opponent when they entertain Horden on Saturday.
Horden were fancied to do well, but the reality has been somewhat different and they are currently lingering in the danger zone after drawing six of their seven games to date, and losing the other.
One of the major issues for them has been the injury problems suffered by overseas professional Sahil Madgaonkar, who has been playing on despite a shoulder injury which has prevented him from bowling.
The injury has got progressively worse and both the player and the club have decided to bite the bullet, with Madgaonkar set to return home to India today to begin a proper recuperation.
He still managed 44 not out in a Frank Lees Cup rout of Whiteleas on Wednesday night, backing Wayne Birks’ brilliant, unbeaten 98.
In the knowledge this might happen, the club have not been idle in sourcing a replacement, and they expect to secure the signing of Akshay Jambhekar from Mumbai shortly, although it is not expected that he will debut until next week’s double-header programme.
In the meantime, the club have received a boost through the return to action of Shaun Bradbury.
A key player in their pre-season planning, he was unlucky to suffer a broken finger in the very first game at the end of April, and such was the injury he is only now fit enough to resume playing. He will return at Dawdon.
Hylton secured their first win of the season last weekend when skipper Alan Mustard hit a cracking century against struggling Boldon CA, and West Indian international Marlon Black picked up three wickets.
The victory lifted them out of the bottom two and provided a decent safety margin of 16 points over the relegation placings.
They take an unchanged side to Durham where their hosts still harbour title ambitions – they are currently 14 points adrift of Castle Eden.