Skipper out to keep Dawdon flying high

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DAWDON’S success is catching one or two people by surprise.

But the Green Drive club are taking nothing for granted despite the fact that they have won more games than anyone else to date and are handily placed to push their Readers Durham Cricket League title claims in the coming weeks.

When play ends on Saturday night, clubs will have completed just over one third of their fixtures, so the league table is beginning to become a fairly accurate barometer of form, and the fact that Burnmoor and Dawdon have established a not insignificant points advantage over the chasing pack suggests they will be in the mix at the final reckoning.

Burnmoor are nine points clear and in pole position, but Dawdon are 24 points ahead of the third-place sides and their victory over Horden has instilled belief into the team.

But success brings its own pressures and opening batsman Stephen Gale understands what his side has to do to stay in the race, telling the Echo: “That was Horden’s first defeat of the season, so it’s definitely a feather in our cap.

“We need to keep the momentum up, starting with the game against Philadelphia on Saturday, if we are to hang on to Burnmoor’s coat tails.”

Despite no chickens being counted, the performances to date have raised the question as to whether Dawdon would want to progress to the North East Premier League if they finished in the top two and met the additional criteria, but as that criteria has not yet been defined it is a question that will have to wait for another day.

Having passed the Horden test, Dawdon make just one change for what they see as another testing encounter when they entertain Philadelphia, bringing in Craig Price for James Dent.

Phili still have concerns over their batting, despite Shaun Hauxwell’s outstanding century against Evenwood, but they have stuck with a settled line-up other than David Craig deputising for unavailable skipper Shaun Smith.

Burnmoor continue the defence of their title with a home game against struggling Marsden, whose captain Chris Mann continues to battle against a groin injury that has plagued him for a number of weeks.

After expecting to be fully fit for last week’s game against Crook, he felt the groin again in the pre-match warm up and decided to stand himself down from the team at the last minute.

But Mann’s determination to get back into action remains as strong as ever and he does expect to lead the team into action on Saturday.

Burnmoor have to reckon without recent signing Will Philips who has more exam commitments. With Stephen Meek still away, veteran Gary Brown will be back in action once more.

Boldon CA skipper Tommy Nixon returns from holiday and, with Chris Gardiner back, and a seasonal debut for Andy McCord, their only absentee for the trip to Tudhoe is spinner Ian Male.

The good news is that when they are due to get back into home firsT-team action on June 14, their ground problems should be sorted with work on the new drainage system beginning this week.

At the foot of the table, there is a must win battle, with Hylton going to Evenwood.

The two teams occupy the bottom two places, and defeat, while not a final nail in the relegation coffin, would represent a major blow.

Hylton’s only missing link this week is the working James Waller, so they have a decent side in the field for this one.

Easington will be watching the outcome of that match with interest as they have slipped down the table and are now just 11 points clear of the drop zone.

They face a trip to Crook and travel with an unchanged side, although they do hope to be able to unveil a possible new signing next week. Their hosts are still missing the influential Steve Chapman who is currently back in Australia.

H Hylton visit Tudhoe in the DH1 Tom Burn Cup tonight.