Eppleton’s first NEPL Premier Division win has placed them in excellent heart ahead of Saturday’s Church Road clash with struggling Gateshead Fell, a game they will be expected to do well in given their opponents current form.
And victory would almost certainly catapult them into the top half of a table that has suddenly become extremely congested with just 26 points seperating new leaders Tynemouth and Eppleton, currently down in ninth place.
Fell are in danger of being cast adrift at the foot of the table after four successive defeats has already seen them ten points behind the Academy youngsters.
However, if any team knows what is required to pull clear of the danger zone it is a Gateshead side who have made an annual habit of doing so – although they normally leave that until around September!
Eppleton won’t be certain of their final line-up until Saturday morning, but they are expecting Paul Coughlin to travel back from Worcester, where Durham begin their T20 campaign, while Calum Jefferson will be making his seasonal league debut.
Jefferson, a virtual ever-present in the promotion campaign, has been kept out of action by work commitments and he will replace the unavailable Craig Scurr.
Despite having lost all of their played games to date, Fell have been in strong positions in several of those matches before frittering their advantage away.
Although, their confidence will not have been bolstered last Sunday when they failed to defend a huge total of 306-7 and went out of the Banks Salver at the hands of second tier Willington.
That run glut was in marked contrast to Eppleton’s last league outing where 16 wickets fell for 77 runs.
That remarkable affair caused by a late change to a fresh pitch just a couple of days before the game, a move which provided significant assistance to the bowlers, who weren’t complaining!
Hetton Lyons were also eliminated from the Salver at the first stage, Chester-le-Street their conquerors, but their league form has been good over the last few weeks.
Their victory against neighbours Eppleton was followed by two impressive batting displays in high-scoring draws, and culminated with their dominant display against champions South North.
The last two weeks have seen Indian professional Faiz Fazal score centuries, and he goes into the game against the Academy seeking a remarkable hat-trick of league tons to increase his runs tally beyond the already impressive aggregate of 249, which places him third on the league run-makers list.
Lyons don’t expect to see Brydon Carse because of his Durham commitments, and Eddie Watson is sidelined by an elbow injury, with selection of his replacement deferred.
The Academy hand a debut to Ashington youngster Jack McCarthy, who replaces the unavailable Piers Davison in an otherwise unchanged line-up.
The squad is in much better spirits following the highly competitive match against Newcastle which was lost by one wicket, with two balls of the game remaining.
Chester-le-Street face a trip to Teesside to tackle a Stockton team who have made a decent start to their season.
The Cestrians have ankle injury doubts over skipper John Coxon and Andrew Bell, although both will probably play, and Chester are hoping Gurman Randhawa will be back bowling after playing as a batsman only last week.
Whitburn will be hoping visitors South Shields are still in a state of shock after last week’s Eppleton episode, and they have Lee Henderson back in the side, with Peter French making way.
Shields are keeping faith with the same line-up from last week as they seek to recover their composure.