Phili gear up for safety scrap

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LAST Sunday’s washout completed a miserable weekend for Philadelphia.

It followed hot on the heels of a home defeat at the hands of Horden the previous day and left them glancing anxiously over their shoulder in the Readers Durham Cricket League relegation zone.

While Evenwood appear certain to be one of the two sides to lose their top-flight status, there’s a battle royal going on to stay out of the second slot, which is currently occupied by Hylton.

Just 14 points separate the five teams in the most immediate danger, with Phili third bottom and only eight points above the trapdoor.

The Bunker Hill men face a difficult assignment this weekend when they go to Boldon CA, who have lost just once all season.

Chairman Malcolm Pratt is at a bit of a loss to put his finger on what has gone wrong after a decent showing by his side in 2013..

He said: “In terms of our line-up, I think we look pretty strong and have added a couple of bowlers to last year’s squad.

“Mirza Baig has come in, having played for Easington previously and done well. Stephen Wright signed from Silksworth and he bolsters our attack, and Stephen Robinson invariably bowls very tight spells and takes wickets, so we are certainly not short of options in the bowling department.

“Last season, we had three batsmen who scored heavily all year in Anthony Hornby, David Baxter and Lee Innes. Innes, in particular, had a tremendous season notching up almost 1,300 runs and I feel it’s only a matter of time before these lads hit form again.

“Shaun Hauxwell has scored runs in plenty of games this season, so, all in all, when they all start firing and you add skipper Shaun Smith into the mix, there is the nucleus of a very good batting line-up.”

Everyone is available this Saturday, so Phili will be fielding their strongest team for the game at Boldon CA, who have just one doubt, with Gary Frater carrying a hip injury, although it is expected he will play.

The big plus for Boldon last week was that Shashank Singh’s hamstring injury was not as bad as at first feared and he played a crucial part in the victory over Burnmoor . “He couldn’t run so he just stood there and smacked the ball all over the ground’ was how Steve Symes summed his performance up.

After the great win over Burnmoor, CA had to settle for a draw against Hylton the following day, and it was a frustrating afternoon for skipper Tommy Nixon, who said: “It was a bit disappointing from our point of view as the overnight and morning rain meant we had a delayed start at Hylton which reduced the overs.

“The pitch was a good batting track and they made 177-9 and we then had 34 overs to get that total and made a really positive start and were up with the run rate.

“However, with the rules the way they are, they slowed the over rate down and, as it turned out, we only got 24 overs and fell frustratingly 25 runs short with four wickets still in hand.”

League games must finish at 7.30pm, no matter what the state of play, and Nixon feels that is something that needs to be reviewed.

He commented: “The time rule isn’t really conducive to make both sides play positively, so hopefully it’s something that can get looked at.

“Anyway, we are still pleased with our points haul for last weekend and, with our pitch drainage problems now behind us, we can hopefully push on from this.”

Leaders Burnmoor face a trip to Crook and they expect to field the same team which beat Dawdon last Sunday, which means David Lowther will be missing as he tries to recover from an ankle injury sustained in the Saturday game.

Meanwhile, there is some better news of sidelined skipper Alec Linsley, who does not need a finger operation and could even be back in action by mid-August.

Dawdon, down to fourth after their two defeats in last week’s double-header, have the chance to bounce back when they entertain third-placed Esh Winning. With Liam Cowell returning, the Green Drive men are up to full strength for this one.

Horden have Josh Broom back from holiday and he goes into the squad at Marsden, where the hosts have Stu Zatorski back behind the sticks after it was ascertained that his eye socket was just badly bruised rather than fractured.

In Division Two, the new leaders are Bill Quay after last Sunday’s humbling of Durham City, and they take on the other main promotion contenders, Whiteleas, on Saturday.

Quay make one enforced change, with Micky Orridge on a stag weekend, much to the incredulity of club spokesman Bill Gardner! Chris Malley fills the void.

Owen Peterson remains upbeat about Leas’ chances, saying: “We had a great win against Seaham Park last Sunday to stay in the promotion pack, and Bill Quay beat Durham City to open it up at the top too, so it’s all to play for.

“We make one change from last Sunday, wicketkeeper Andrew Potts returning after recovering from a hand injury, so therefore we’re at full strength.”

Durham City try to get back on course at Langley Park, while Seaham Park have both Ali Watson and Paul Smailes in their side when they host Shildon Railway.

Silksworth entertain neighbours Ryhope, who welcome back Connor Cheal after a couple of months on the sidelines with a knee injury.