NE Premier League: Whitburn can ease drop fears by beating bottom club Gateshead Fell

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A disastrous run of four consecutive defeats, in which only 15 points have been picked up, has left Whitburn with some work to do if they are to finally rid themselves of relegation worries.

But they have a real chance to put those fears finally to bed this weekend when they take on Gateshead Fell.

In the first half of the season, the Fell looked nailed on for the drop, but two wins in succession enabled them to dream of yet another escape.

They trail Blaydon by 26 points and Tynemouth by 30, while the gap to Whitburn has been reduced to 39 points.

The Eastwood Gardens showdown is crucial for both of them – a Whitburn win would make it almost impossible for Gateshead to catch them in the five games remaining, but a win for the Fell would mean a nervous end to the season.

The visitors make one change for the vital match, with Kieran Waterson returning in place of Craig Smith.

Hetton Lyons, who, just a few short weeks ago, were facing the same concerns as Whitburn, are now in mid-table having enjoyed a five-game unbeaten run.

And they have the ideal opportunity to measure how far they have come since the first half of the season when they went nine games without a win as they go to Roseworth Terrace to take on league leaders South North.

Shaun Birbeck is back, while leg-spinner Ben Whitehead is back in the Lyons fold after release by Durham Academy.

South North have Stephen Humble, Adam Heather and Rob Peyton returning to their line-up in place of Sam Dinning, Andrew Doig and Tom Seymour.

Lyons’ Allan Worthy is within touching distance of a fine personal milestone.

He now stands just 139 runs away from becoming the first man in NEPL history to make 10,000 league runs.

Durham Academy are flying at the moment and it is no coincidence that they almost have a clean bill of health, with only Brydon Carse now on the injured list.

He is around two weeks away from a return following the stress fracture to his foot, but Asher Hart is fully fit again and Gavin Main is back from his Scotland duties. Both should feature in the Emirates clash with South Shields.

Chester-le-Street’s dream of a remarkable national double is still alive after their success in last week’s T20 area finals, a last-over win over Seaton Carew followed by a 15-run final success against Barnsley.

They now meet Pudsey Congs at home on August 16, with the winners progressing to finals day.

Before that, they host Bowdon, a mid-table Cheshire Premier League club, in the last eight of the National 45-over competition on Sunday. The big bonus for the Cestrians being the fact that Graeme Cessford can play. By the following week, the squad will be back to full strength.

They continue their pursuit of South North in Saturday’s league match at Stockton.