WITH half the league season now completed, and June giving way to July, the thoughts of several Durham Cricket League clubs are inevitably turning towards mid-September, when two teams will be promoted into the NEPL’s First Division.
The NEPL have recently confirmed that two sides will be admitted providing they meet the league and ground criteria for entry.
Although, that criteria has yet to be specifically identified.
Initially, the league winners and runners-up will be assessed to see if they meet the standards required, and if one or both fail then the selection process can be extended to the third and fourth teams in the table.
In the following years, there will be a one up one down promotion and relegation system between the NEPL and the DCL, although again, the DCL winners would have to meet the criteria to gain promotion.
Once that system is in place in the 2015 season, only the DCL champion club would be able to be promoted.
Whilst the primary target of most leading clubs will be to win the championship, the possible extension of a promotion opportunity to the fourth-placed club will no doubt intensify the competition at the top of the First Division, and dangle the carrot to those currently outside the top four.
And the team currently in fifth place is Castle Eden who, coincidentally, play the new table-toppers Dawdon this Saturday.
The home team need to recover from the setback of losing at Boldon CA last week, their second defeat in a row disappointingly following a run of four successive wins.
They hope to name an unchanged side for the visit of a Dawdon side who are currently on the crest of a wave after winning five of their last six matches, a run which has seen them overtake title favourites Burnmoor.
The leaders have one enforced change with James Dent promoted to replace Liam Cowell who is working.
A poor draw, followed by a surprise defeat, have shaken Burnmoor, and the fact that they are having difficulty bowling sides out could well affect their tactics in the next few weeks.
They have always backed themselves to put the runs on the board batting first, and then winkle out the opposition, but those plans have been misfiring of late.
The Moor entertain a dangerous Mainsforth side this week.
Whilst the visitors are locked in mid-table, they have turned in several impressive performances so the champions will need to rediscover their best form, and along with it their confidence, in this one.
They make one change with Neil Young back from his holidays, but Owen Lancaster now unavailable.
There will also be a late fitness test for McKenzie Wright, who suffered a knee injury in last week’s match.
Horden are within striking distance of the top four, their prospects enhanced by that surprise win over the Moor which further embellished their reputation as their bogey team as skipper Carl Watson reflected: “It’s pretty weird how we generally seem to do well against Burnmoor, particularly as they are usually the team to beat in our league.
“I couldn’t really put a finger on why that would be! The win came after a really poor spell for us as we have lost the previous four games which took us from second spot down into mid-table.
“So you might say beating them this time was all the more surprising.
“Hopefully, this gets us back on track and we can start climbing the table again.”
They should have a good chance of further success on Saturday as they entertain rock bottom Evenwood, who have lost eight matches so far.
Horden have to reckon without wicket keeper Connor Dickinson for this one, so Cameron Miller will be offered the chance to fill his gloves.
Hylton did themselves the power of good when defeating Easington last week, although they face a tough assignment with a trip to Esh Winning this weekend.
James Waller and John Stokoe are unavailable for this one, so 16-year-old Connor Innes will be offered the opportunity to open the batting, and Ben Young is also called up.
In Division Two, it’s Whiteleas turn to sit it out, something that will allow the winners of the Bill Quay versus Seaham Park clash the opportunity to claim second place in the table.
After five fruitless matches at the start of the season, Park are now on a roll, with the victory at Langley Park being their fourth in a row.
And they have three players returning to action, with Dave Hanson, Jimmy Taylor and Steve Harper back for this promotion showdown.
Quay are able to name the same eleven who defeated Murton last time out.
In the day’s other games, Murton are missing Jordan and Aiden Vout, as well as Alan Welburn, all three attending a wedding, but they do have Keith Chapman and Richard Lowes back from their holidays and they go into the side who play at Durham City.
Peterlee entertain Langley Park and welcome back Dave Garraghan following his recovery from a bruised hand.
Eddie Wood returns for Silksworth’s home game against Ushaw Moor, and Dan Clasper and Mattie Kirtley are in Ryhope’s team for the home game against Shildon, although Dan Mason is sidelined by a thumb injury, and James Summerside is on holiday.