NE Premier League: Captain Turns hails Whitburn progress, and eyes better 2016

Whitburn's 2015 squad
Whitburn's 2015 squad
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Whitburn skipper Andy Turns is pleased with how things have gone for his team this summer.

Safe from the threat of the drop, going into the final game of the campaign at Blaydon, he said: “As far as the season has gone, I believe the team has made great progress and I’m happy with going into the last game with a chance to potentially finish mid-table.

“I’ve been extremely happy with the players that have come into the squad and feel there is a great atmosphere to take into next year.

“With the injuries we have had, we have shuffled around a lot and still proved to be a tough team to beat.

“Hopefully, we can kick on again next year and improve our league position, with the right players coming in and not as many injuries.”

Blaydon, who host Whitburn on Saturday, stand on the brink of relegation from the Premier Division for the first time in their history, with only a highly improbable combination of results able to save them from the drop.

Last week’s defeat to Gateshead Fell virtually sealed their fate, but while there’s life there’s mathematics, and the figures say that the bottom club could theoretically overhaul three teams – Fell, Stockton and South Shields.

But that assumes they lose heavily and only pick up a point or two as Blaydon defeat Whitburn, who are the visitors to Denefield on Saturday, and pick up close to a maximum in doing so.

Having said that, given what happened on the last day of the 2014 campaign, when Fell pulled off a remarkable escape to send a stunned Sunderland crashing into the second tier, perhaps nothing should be discounted until the final ball is bowled.

Blaydon’s record in the Premier Division has been one of consistency – in the 15 seasons since the league was formed they have only finished outside the top half of the table on two occasions, been runners-up twice and third five times.

But this season has seen them struggle to score runs, and, with a catalogue of injuries to contend with, they’ve dropped like a stone following a run of 16 games with just one victory to their name.

They stick to the same line-up for this final game, although some positive news for them is that they will be facing a Whitburn team with injury problems.

Mike Turns is sidelined by torn ligaments, while Neil Ayre is also out after fracturing two fingers – Michael Bittlestone and Luke Smith replace them.

Gateshead Fell play their final game at Chester-le-Street, where a return of seven points will ensure their survival once more.

They stick with the same side which defeated Blaydon against hosts determined to go out with a win after the disappointments of the last few weeks. The Cestrians have a fully fit squad to choose from.

Hetton Lyons end with a visit from South Shields, with their new 10,000 runs man, Allan Worthy, reflecting on some highs and lows, he said: “A season which promised much has ultimately proved disappointing.”

“We narrowly failed to win the first two games and struggled to build any momentum.

“The second half of the season saw some improvement but, as a team, we failed to reach the high standards of the second-place finish of the previous season.

“In cup ties, in stark contrast, we have been outstanding, losing only twice all year – narrowly on both occasions – and carrying off both the Profound and Austin trophies.

“The biggest positives from the season would be the emergence of Jarvis Clay as the leading wicketkeeper/batsman in the NEPL, and the development of the exciting and limitless all round talents of 17-year-old Josh Coughlin.”

Lyons are unchanged for the clash with Shields, who are unlikely to have Gordon Muchall available.

Jim Elliott is looking to Shields’ overseas star to shine. He said: “We require one point to ensure our Premier League place next season, so, in effect, a couple of wickets will be enough.”

“Hopefully Tim David can round off a tremendous season by getting the 37 he needs to get to 1,000 league runs for the season, which will put him in illustrious company.”