SEAHAM Park’s attritional victory over Marsden last week opened up the title race in Division Two, moving them within two points of the leading pair, Marsden and Ryhope.
With a game in hand on the teams around them, they look ideally placed to make a bid for one of the two promotion places, although they still have the handicap of having to play their home games on opponents’ grounds, as they do this coming Saturday when they play newcomers Littletown.
Club spokesman Michael McNicholas reflected on the difficulties they have faced: “The new clubhouse is currently being built – it was planned to be finished before the start of the season, but, due to some unforeseen issues with the power supply, it has been knocked back.
“However, following a meeting with the council on Monday, we are confident it will be ready by the end of May.
“Although frustrating, having been without a clubhouse for four years, another few weeks is not going to kill us, although the second team are suffering the most as they are going to face a fixture backlog.
“The new clubhouse is a super facility, and one we are very proud of, especially given the amount of hard work that has gone in to getting this far.”
On the field, Park make one change to last week’s winning line-up, with Darrin Sutherland unavailable due to work commitments. Craig Brammer is selected to make his first-team debut following his close-season move from Murton.
The game will also feature a head-to-head between two players who normally grace the same dressing room in Mumbai – Park’s overseas pro, Siddharth Chitnis, is a team-mate of Littletown’s new signing, Shashikant Kadam, in India.
Littletown had to turn their attentions to another option when paperwork problems meant they could no longer bring in Rizwan Ullah, but Kadam looks to be a useful replacement – the left-arm spinner and batsman was included in this year’s IPL auction, albeit not selected, and featured in Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy squad.
Of the teams around Park in the table, Marsden face a tricky trip to neighbours Whiteleas, Ryhope go to Langley Park, and fourth-placed Burnopfield will be kicking their heels again as this is their week to sit it out.
Leas, in sixth, also have a crucial game in hand, and if they can topple Marsden they would emerge from the weekend in a very strong position.
This will be only the second ever league meeting between the local rivals and the home side have seam bowler Dave Gilbert returning for the derby.
Ryhope make just one change for a game where they should start as favourites, with the bowling department bolstered by the inclusion of James Summerside in place of Joe McQuillan.
While Ryhope bask in the sunnier climes of the summit, Langley Park seem once again destined for a summer of struggle in the gloomier reaches of the foothills, their 18 points to date placing them just two above bottom club Houghton.
Murton have both skipper Ian King and vice-captain Ben Wicling available again and they will lead the side at Ushaw Moor, who enjoyed a positive start to the season and currently occupy fifth position in the table.
Ali Watson, still at university, is Murton’s only absentee from what they regard as their full-strength side.
Silksworth host Evenwood, while Houghton, who succumbed to Ryhope last week despite doing well with the ball, are at home to Peterlee.