Hetton Lyons ready for mega challenge

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IT’S a big weekend for Hetton Lyons as they step up their bid for honours on three separate fronts.

A hectic schedule sees the Lyons playing on three consecutive days, with the intense programme beginning tomorrow night when they host Washington in the fourth round of Co-operative Funeralcare T20 group fixtures.

They follow that up with Saturday’s trip to Whitburn as they seek to put further pressure on South North at the top of the Premier Division table, and the weekend is rounded off with a trip to York in the regional final of the National Club Cup.

But first things first. Their T20 group is one of the most fiercely contested. With two rounds of matches to go, five of the six teams still have a chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals.

Benwell Hill top the pile, but they are just two points ahead of Lyons and Boldon. With both their remaining games against lower tier opposition, Lyons are favourites to make progress.

While cup success is a nice diversion from the league, there is little doubt that the championship is the main goal of all clubs, and Lyons remain the major threat to South North’s ambitions of regaining the crown.

Last week’s victory over Gateshead Fell, while ultimately comfortable, was not as emphatic as it might have been, and they will have that in mind when they go to second-bottom Whitburn this weekend.

One of last week’s batting saviours was skipper Shaun Birbeck who, along with Sean Tindale, rescued his team after they had slipped to 34-5 batting first.

Ignominy beckoned, but Birbeck’s experience shone through and a winning recovery was put in place. But Birbeck will be missing on Saturday through work commitments, so Gary Scott takes over as skipper and Robbie Talbot comes back into the team.

Sunday’s trip to York represents a step into the unknown as Lyons have not reached this stage of the national competition before.

They hope to have a full strength side, other than Lal Kumar who has to sit this one out as overseas players are ineligible. York present the most formidable of hurdles as they have been Yorkshire Premier League champions for the last seven years, and won the national title a couple of seasons ago.

Sunderland are slowly sliding down the league table, a disappointment after that sensational win at Newcastle on the opening day of the season.

With three defeats in the T20, that door has already closed for them, although they do have their final home group game to enjoy tomorrow night when Willington visit Ashbrooke.

With elimination from the cups comes a renewed effort in league terms, although a trip to Blaydon on Saturday presents a difficult enough assignment against the team who dumped them out of the Banks Salver two weeks ago.

The Wearsiders will be unchanged unless Durham bowler Usman Arshad becomes available, and it’s the same for Blaydon who are undefeated in seven after losing their two opening games of the campaign.

Chester-le-Street are 57 points adrift of leaders South North, their main problem seeming to be the fact they have difficulty bowling sides out, as illustrated in last week’s stalemate with Durham Academy.

A trip to Denton Bank beckons this weekend, and this will be a tough call for the Cestrians as hosts Benwell Hill are the only unbeaten side in the top flight and beat reigning champions Stockton last weekend. Stephen Cantwell and Chris Martin come into the Cestrians reckoning for this one.

Durham Academy have a daunting trip to South North.