NE Premier League: Eppleton on the up, with pro Shah making big impact

Burnmoor bowler Sean Tindale runs in against Willington last week
Burnmoor bowler Sean Tindale runs in against Willington last week
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While all the talk has been about Brandon, Burnmoor and Washington in the opening weeks of the season, Eppleton have been slowly gathering pace after suffering more than most at the hands of the weather.

Unbeaten in the league, they have lost just once in all competitions, with last Friday night’s T20 success against the powerful South North outfit providing a very significant feather in their cap.

Next up on the T20 front are Tynemouth, who visit Church Road tomorrow night, and then a home league match follows on Saturday when Seaham Harbour are the visitors.

New overseas pro Kamran Shah is now settling in well to his surroundings after arriving late in the day – he has picked up seven wickets in his two league bowls to date, and on Monday night returned figures of 7-26 in a rain-abandoned Horner Cup match against Philadelphia.

So all is well at Eppleton, who have one slight doubt on team selection this week, with Liam Mallaburn hurting an arm a few days ago but expected to play.

If he does turn out, they will be at full strength for the visit of a Harbour team who will be unchanged from the line-up which gave Washington a decent run for their money last time out, some missed chances eventually costing them dear.

Eppleton will probably need to win to keep pace with the trio of teams above them, at least two of whom will start as favourites in their games.

Washington, once again at full strength, entertain a Tudhoe team who were facing real selection issues earlier in the week primarily caused by fixture congestion.

Saturday’s match will be their fourth in four days and, with four players unavailable, skipper Ross Hodgson was pulling his hair out when we spoke to him on Tuesday.

Leaders Brandon, another team with a settled side, go to South Hetton, where their struggling hosts will have Tony Murphy back to lead the side.

The good news for South Hetton is that Daniel Stewart will make his seasonal debut after overcoming a serious shoulder injury suffered in 2014. With Nathan Adamson also drafted in, the South Hetton team has a more solid look about it.

Burnmoor, in second spot, just 15 points behind Brandon now, arguably face the toughest assignment of the leading quartet as they face a trip to Boldon, who have lost just once this term.

With Joe Coyne coming through last week’s return to action after a recent appendix operation, Boldon will be unchanged, while the Moor will also have the same team in the field that defeated Willington last time out, which means Stephen Meek is still absent.

Sacriston have a few selection headaches ahead of their trip to Felling, with students Seb Stewart-Taylor and Prabodh Kakodkar tied up by university commitments, and Jack Keall sidelined by a hamstring injury. Phil Peel returns, while Craig Robinson retains his place.

Felling are edging closer to signing an overseas player, a former Indian first-classer now lined up although he will not be here in time for this weekend.

With John Nicholls now away for three weeks David Dent earns promotion.

Relegated Sunderland are still searching for their first win of the season, and that search will continue at Willington, where their hosts hope that Calvin Stephenson will come through a late fitness test on the hamstring injury that kept him out of last week’s game.

They do make one definite change, with Will Phillips back to replace Jamie Dass.