NE Premier League: Sunderland get boost as Willington dangerman heads home ahead of Ashbrooke clash

Seaham Harbour's Andrew Bond plays and misses in last week's clash with Washington
Seaham Harbour's Andrew Bond plays and misses in last week's clash with Washington
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It was a case of love you and leave you last weekend for Anand Singh, Willington’s Indian professional becoming the first player in the division to record a double century, and then shortly afterwards boarding a plane to return to his home country.

Singh’s wonderful 204 against Burnmoor not only set a league record but also made him the first player in either division to pass the 1,000 league runs milestone for the season, and his departure is a major blow to Willington’s ambitions of extending a 10-game unbeaten run and challenging for the league title.

The club had known that his departure before the season’s end was a possibility, but they only found out for certain the night before his final game when it was confirmed that he had been granted an extended trial for a first-class side in India.

Not everyone will be sad to see him go of course, particularly their fellow championship contenders and those sides who have yet to face Willington, although, interestingly, they do not meet any of their three key rivals for the title in the five game run-in.

With the new player registration deadline of July 31 already passed, the club understand they will not be able to secure a replacement.

Sunderland welcome Willington to Ashbrooke on Saturday, their victory over Felling last weekend providing a fillip after defeats in their previous two matches.

The return to action of Arsalan Rahim proved pivotal in last week’s success, his first game in over two months seeing him take five wickets as Felling were shot out for 117. Other than the departed Singh, both sides expect to name unchanged line-ups for this one.

The blow of conceding over 300 runs to their rampant rivals last week was softened by the tremendous rearguard action mounted by Burnmoor skipper Alec Linsley and veteran bowler Ian Conn, the last wicket pairing defying the Willington attack for 17 long overs to salvage a crucial draw from the wreckage.

While it only brought another three points for the Moor, the key factor was that it denied Willington a victory that could have taken them to the top of the table.

But Burnmoor need to recover their composure quickly as they entertain a gradually improving Boldon side who, on the back of a four-game unbeaten run, have nudged their way to the fringe of the title race – with none of the top four winning last week they are now 37 points off the summit.

While overhauling all of the teams above them is improbable, the Sunderland Road side do have all four to play in their final five games.

Moor are able to name an unchanged side for the Boldon clash, while their visitors welcome back a glut of players from their holidays, with Tommy Nixon, Gary Hewitt and Ian Male all back on duty.

Leaders Eppleton are boosted by the return from holiday of Kyle Davis, whose form has been such that he has matched Singh in the run-scoring stakes, with 1,143 under his belt in all games.

His return will be the only change to the team that suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Sacriston last time out, while Saturday’s hosts, Seaham Harbour, have their own returning player in the shape of Jack Lacey.

Harbour are in much calmer waters now, a seven-game unbeaten run banishing the relegation concerns of earlier in the season.

In the relegation stakes, South Hetton are now in a serious position having fallen 33 points adrift of the next team above them, Sacriston. South Hetton go to Brandon on Saturday and have Tony Murphy back at the helm.

Sacriston are hoping they can include new signing Will Gidman for their home game with Felling. The Nottinghamshire player is currently playing in the county second XI as he battles to regain fitness after an injury-scarred opening to his season.