After safely navigating the dangerous waters of a difficult bank holiday programme, Seaham Park should be able to take a significant step towards clinching the Division Two championship on Saturday when they entertain struggling Silksworth.
A tremendous backs-to-the-wall effort last Saturday thwarted Burnopfield’s bid to take over as leaders, John Sample providing a very passable impression of the original immoveable object after arriving at the crease after just a few balls of Park’s response to the visitors total of 180, and sticking around for the rest of the 41-over innings to end on 22 not out after defending for 114 balls.
Park closed out on 58-6 after James Taylor added his own two pennyworth to the cause by seeing off 57 deliveries in making 9, but it wasn’t so much the eight points that Seaham took from the contest as the 18 they stopped Burnopfield taking, and, with the bank holiday Monday programme badly affected by the weather, it left the leaders with a handsome 17-point advantage going into the final two games.
The first priority this weekend will be to seal promotion, with third-placed Marsden the only team in with a chance of spoiling that particular party.
But they entertain Burnopfield which means that one or both of Seaham’s main rivals will drop sufficient points to ensure the Park are celebrating come Saturday night, with the title, if not already in their possession, almost certain to be sewn up in the final fixture the following week against bottom club Houghton.
Club spokesman and former captain, Michael McNicholas, reflected on his team’s progress and what lies ahead.
“We were happy to come out of a tough weekend still top, and although Silksworth will make it hard we will be going out to win the game which will ensure promotion and set us up for the last game to try and win league,” he said.
The club have enjoyed an excellent season, having already won the League Cup and defeating a number of top-flight sides, and they would have loved to have had the chance to make it a treble by taking a pot at the F15 trophy as well, only to be denied by unusual circumstances.
“Our only disappointment is being robbed of the chance of going for a treble due to Castle Eden conceding a F15 group game against us and us not being awarded any wickets, resulting in us not qualifying for F15 finals day,” said McNicholas.
Park finished equal top of their group with Dawdon on points, but with final positions in such cases being determined by the number of wickets taken the concession meant they missed out by just four wickets on qualification.
“To rub a little salt into the wounds,” added McNicholas, “Dawdon were drawn to host the finals day, and that could have been us, so we’ve also missed out on some good revenue.”
That disappointment will probably fade once the championship is securely in their grasp, and they have the added bonus of their ex-junior, leg-spinner Chris Varley, home from Australia and set to play against a Silksworth side who have won just once this season. Park’s only absentee is Thomas Ferguson.
Meanwhile, Marsden and Burnopfield meet with both having the one goal of promotion in mind.
After a couple of recent games, Stephen Allen has returned home so Burnopfield bring in Joe English to replace him, while Marsden will have virtually a full-strength side in the field, their only absentees being Mark Symington and Paul Hobson, although the latter might just be available.
They go into the match with a 20-point gap to bridge on their opponents.