The champagne is well and truly on ice at South Shields, but they dare not pop the corks just yet until the final rites are carried out on Saturday when fate takes them to Vigo Lane to lock horns with the only team who have a chance of catching them, Washington.
The chances of a Washington Dukes North East Premier League First Division title smash and grab are remote given that Shields enjoy a 30-point lead over their rivals, whose only hope is to win the toss, and then win the match – and not only win it but win it handsomely, collect maximum points and then deny Shields a single point in return.
If that outrageous scenario happened, then it would all come down to net run-rate.
Following the despair and ignominy of failing to record a single victory last season, when they were relegated from the top flight, Shields’ turnaround has been quite remarkable, and unless that miracle of biblical proportions happens then a return to the big time is now assured.
Having only lost two games this campaign, the Wood Terrace outfit have been in charge at the top of the pile for the last three months or so, and their consistency has been rewarded, victory over Brandon last Saturday providing the icing on their promotional cake.
Chairman Jim Elliott is delighted with the way things have gone this season, and he even threw another scenario into the pot for Saturday’s match, saying: “Last week’s win now means we only require a single point against Washington to confirm our return to the Premier League.
“In fact, if we win the toss, bat first and declare then they won’t be able to get enough points to catch us!
“It’s been a tough season with a lot of competitive games, but we have come through it thanks to a good team ethic as well as a lot of good individual performances.
“Undoubtedly, we will need to strengthen for life back in the top flight, but we are looking forward to the challenge again – providing there isn’t a spectacular mishap next weekend!”
One of the revelations for the team has been the form of young Aussie Tim David, who rattled up his second century in as many matches against Brandon, something that Elliott expanded upon.
He batted with maturity well beyond his 18 years, making his second consecutive century and was unbeaten on 103 when he and skipper Chris Rainbow (pictured, inset) knocked off the winning runs.
“Tim has had a superb season, scoring over 700 runs from just 13 innings,” added Elliott. “We’ve been very impressed with his application as well as his obvious talent.”
David actually tops the division’s run-scoring charts with 713 runs at an average of 65, the only player above him in the averages being Washington skipper Ash Thorpe, who has been in tremendous form of late, his 472 runs coming at 79 per innings.
Both Shields and Washington expect to be unchanged, and knowing Thorpe he’ll be going all out to try and make the impossible possible.
In the day’s other games, the third- and fourth-placed teams meet at Eppleton where Brandon are the visitors. Depending on the outcome of the top-of-the-table clash, both could still nip in to grab the runners-up spot.
Elsewhere, Boldon entertain Seaham Harbour, Willington go to Felling and South Hetton bring the curtain down on a difficult season for them at home to Sacriston.