NE Premier League: Durham Academy starlets ready to dig deep again for South North challenge

Hetton Lyons line up ahead of last week's defeat to Whitburn
Hetton Lyons line up ahead of last week's defeat to Whitburn
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Durham Academy will be asked to dig deep once more this weekend.

A series of injuries are beginning to bite, which could possibly affect their ability to maintain a record which defines them as one of the most difficult teams to defeat in NEPL cricket.

With teams now heading off into the second half of the season, the Academy’s record of eight draws in their 11 matches speaks for itself.

That is something that Saturday’s opponents, high-flying South North, are only too well aware of.

The youngsters got the better of a rain-affected encounter which ended in stalemate on the opening day of the season, back in April.

Nowhere was their never-say-die spirit exemplified more than in their mid-June meeting with Hetton Lyons, when their last pair faced 150 balls without flinching to earn the most unlikely of draws, and Chester-le-Street, who were also unable to bowl them out last week, despite having 64 overs at them.

But the potential stars of the future do have to work hard and injuries are, perhaps, an inevitable consequence.

At the moment, there are three on the sidelines, with South African Brydon Carse, who played at Burnmoor last summer, suffering from a stress fracture of the foot, Jack Boyle recovering from a fractured finger sustained 10 days ago, and Asher Hart still resting a sore back.

This weekend starts with a return trip to Hetton tomorrow night for their Co-operative Funeralcare T20 quarter-final.

The Academy are keen to reach finals day again and have a crack at retaining the trophy they won in outstanding fashion last season.

Then, on Saturday, it’s over to Roseworth Terrace with the “home” fixture against the Bulls being played there.

Depending on the injury and head count, there could be further opportunities for Tom Wing (Billingham Synthonia), Scott Steel (Durham City) and Alex Simpson (Darlington).

The Bulls will have Jonny Wightman back from his honeymoon, although they did allude to other selection issues which will not be resolved until later in the week.

Hetton Lyons, meanwhile, need to keep their heads above the relegation waters.

Last week’s defeat by Whitburn rang a few alarm bells given that Gateshead Fell, as predicted might be the case, did manage to secure their first win of the season against a severely-depleted Blaydon.

The net outcome was that the Lyons’ seemingly rock-solid 53-point lead over the Fell was reduced to just 28 in the blink of an eye. A similar combination of results on Saturday would be unthinkable.

While it’s a well-worn cliché, their trip to Preston Avenue to take on a similarly struggling Tynemouth, in a game where the points will carry double the value, as their Tyneside hosts are just one point better off at the moment.

Lyons expect Shaun Birbeck back to lead the team.

Whitburn’s win at Lilywhite Terrace last weekend gave them some much needed breathing space, something they might need given that they face a weekend double header against leaders Chester-le-Street.

Tomorrow, they travel over to Ropery Lane for the T20 quarter-final, but then it’s back to home comforts for the league clash on Saturday.

The positive news is that Paul Coughlin is hopeful of returning to the team, and he will replace Paul Shields in the only change from last week.

Chester will be at full strength for this one, with star man Mark Turner returning from his holidays.