NE Premier League: Sunderland seek kick-start against Boldon in Ashbrooke opener

Whitburn. Back, from left: Mark Elliott, Daniel Shurben, Craig Smith, Ian Elliott, Kieran Waterson, Jeremy Benton. Front:  Joseph Coyne, Paul Shields, Ross Carty (capt), Daniel Woolston, Lee Henderson.
Whitburn. Back, from left: Mark Elliott, Daniel Shurben, Craig Smith, Ian Elliott, Kieran Waterson, Jeremy Benton. Front: Joseph Coyne, Paul Shields, Ross Carty (capt), Daniel Woolston, Lee Henderson.
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A disappointing start to the season sees Sunderland wallowing in the lower reaches of the First Division table once more, but they hope to hit the winning trail this weekend when Boldon are the visitors to Ashbrooke.

The 2016 season was supposed to be all about the Wearsiders getting a disastrous couple of years out of their systems and challenging at the opposite end of the table, but it hasn’t quite turned out like that yet as two complete abandonments, coupled with two defeats, have left them dangling over the drop zone once more.

Their hopes for a brighter future were based on the fact they made four decent looking acquisitions over the close-season.

In came Rammy and Jaspreet Singh from Stockton, and Kamran Shah and Zaheer Shahbaz from Eppleton, but despite their track records run scoring has been a problem in the opening matches with totals of 129 and 94 being the sum total of their efforts to date.

But the squad does look too solid to face a prolonged struggle and Sunderland will be hoping everything clicks into place this Saturday when they get back to familiar surroundings on home soil for the first time this summer.

They expect to keep faith with the side who lost heavily at Felling last time out, providing Usman Arshad isn’t needed by Durham.

Boldon, buoyed by their brilliant bowling display at Burnmoor last Saturday, will be going all out for a second consecutive win, and they will have Calum MacLeod returning while Darren Hickey is also expected to make his long overdue debut following his recovery from a shoulder injury.

Boldon skipper Chris Ellison was delighted with the Burnmoor win, and particularly his bowlers: “It was strange to see batsmen struggle and such low scores recorded – it was a road of a wicket and there really didn’t appear to be any excuse for the batsmen other than the quality of the bowling.

“I was particularly pleased with Nick Sampson-Barnes and Ian Male who were on top form for us.”

Burnmoor’s somewhat erratic form to date will be tested at Washington this week where their hosts will need to get last week’s horrible batting display out of their minds.

They were dumped out on their home ground for a meagre 49 against Brandon, but Burnmoor’s batters won’t be that much more confident after they crumbled for 76 in the Boldon defeat.

With Owen Lancaster still away, and Daniel Unsworth still struggling with a back injury, youngster Riley Blunt, along with Martin Thursfield, retain their places.

Chris Rushworth’s debut for Sacriston last week could best be described as explosive, and it helped blast his new team-mates to the top of the table.

Of course, with Durham back on championship duty, he won’t feature this weekend, but the new leaders are waiting on news of the availability of Will Gidman

who is penciled in to their squad of twelve for the trip to Blaydon.

Also likely to be in those dozen names is skipper Ian Jones who missed last week’s victory through family commitments.

Seaham Harbour have two New Drive matches this weekend.

On Sunday, they tackle Whitburn in the re-arranged Banks Salver tie, but before that they have a league assignment against Willington to negotiate, their visitors in great early season form with two wins from two.

Harbour, meanwhile, are currently propping up the rest, their two played games to date both ending in defeat.

Stewart Pattison is free from work commitments and returns to the starting line-up in place of Sean McKenna.

Tudhoe entertain Felling, while Mainsforth, the only team to have won on three occasions, are set to be tested at Brandon.