SUNDERLAND’S slender hopes of making a late bid for Dukes North East Premier championship honours disappeared when they once again failed to find the form which had put them at the top of the table a few weeks earlier.
Having looked on course to be in the mix for the title when they led with two thirds of the season gone, they have now lost three of their last five games, including the latest battle with champions South North which saw them drop down to fourth and out of contention.
The Bulls, who have moved into second place in hot pursuit of the leaders Blaydon, took full advantage of Sunderland’s sudden loss of form.
A half century for Joe Coyne pepped up the hosts after they lost early wickets, and they posted 185-9 which turned out to be 81 runs too many for the Wearsiders. Kieran Waterson (3-46) and Chris Hooker (3-52) did their best to keep Sunderland in the game, but Lee Crozier (5-28), Stephen Humble (2-14) and Paul Coughlin (2-19) ran through their batting after opener Mark Dale, who top scored with 27, showed early resistance.
Durham Academy and Hetton Lyons both suffered defeats and will have to be satisfied with mid-table finishes.
The Lyons found Blaydon too much of a handful as they maintained their 30-point advantage as table toppers. Graeme Bridge (60), Allan Worthy (39) and Cole McConchie (33) remained in tip-top form to help post a solid 214-7 from 53 overs, but Hetton were bowled out for 146 with six overs of the game remaining after Bridge (3-31 from 14 overs) showed his all-round strengths. Defeat, by 68 runs, was their eighth of the season and left them marooned in seventh place.
Durham Academy lost for the second successive week when taking the briefest of journeys to Chester-le-Street’s Ropery Lane ground.
The Cestrians hit 212 and lost just three wickets before being able to declare to provide more time to bowl out the “students” which they duly did for 156. Skipper Quentin Hughes gave the Academy youngsters a hard time in the field as he made 81 from 132 balls with 10 boundaries, but there was a solid look about Chester’s batting with Gary Scott (41 from 37 balls), Andrew Smith (37) and Simon Birtwisle (27) all contributing well.
The Academy lost their first four wickets for just 43 runs, and despite an attractive knock worth 66 runs from Usman Arshad they were overwhelmed by Andrew Tye whose eight wickets for 37 runs in 18.3 torrid overs was a match-winning performance. Chester’s win by 56 runs kept them in third place, although very much on the fringe of the championship fight.
South Shields and Newcastle played out a low scoring draw in a weather-truncated match. Rameez Shahzad (58no) rescued Shields after the loss of early wickets, but even then their 113-6 looked vulnerable. But Newcastle didn’t fair any better and with wickets falling they determined discretion was the better part of valour and closed out on 94-6.
Elsewhere, Stockton moved up a place to fifth after continuing their eight match unbeaten run at the expense of Tynemouth. A superb century and five wickets from Richard Waite gave him the man-of-the match rating. Gateshead Fell won for only the second time but stay in bottom place.