CHESTER-le-Street’s success in retaining their T20 title last Sunday is likely to have positive benefits as they look to re-energise their bid for the Dukes North East Premier League championship with a victory over bottom club Gateshead Fell on Saturday.
The Cestrians’ triumph in the short format game was their third in the five years the Co-operative Funeralcare-sponsored event has been running, and victory takes them to Oulton, near Leeds, on August 5 to play in the area finals day.
They will face Central Yorkshire League side Methley, with the winners then scheduled to face the victors of the other semi-final between Great Ayton (NYSD) and the Ribblesdale League representatives.
Almost certainly, Chester will go into that group as the favourites given their proud record in the national competition, which includes making it all the way to last year’s final, but their eyes are also on the main prize of the league title which they would love to reclaim from South North.
The fact that the two heavyweights could not be separated in a rain-affected draw last week was not altogether surprising, but with lowly Fell next up, the Cestrians will have their sights firmly fixed on a maximum points haul against the winless club who are rooted to the foot of the table.
Chester will travel to Eastwood Gardens with a full-strength squad available, their T20 exploits having had the major side benefit of confirming that ex-Durham man Gary Scott is back to fitness after months on the sidelines. Fell show just one change, with Andy Porter in for James Lloyd.
Sunderland were able to fully expose the Fell’s frailties last week, their points haul from that game enabling them to open up a decent gap over their title rivals, and they will be looking for a similar performance against Newcastle at Jesmond on Saturday.
Newcastle have found it extremely difficult to gather any sort of momentum in this fragmented season, and, with just one win to date, they are locked in the bottom three.
It looks like being Chris Youldon’s last game for Sunderland as he is going to play football in Malta, so the club have moved swiftly to re-sign former player Tom Skilbeck, who will now keep wicket when Youldon is away, although he will play this week as a batter.
Apart from that, the Ashbrooke team is expected to be unchanged in the hope that Ruel Brathwaite will be available again.
With Sunderland top and Chester fourth, the other two teams in with a realistic title chance are Blaydon and South North and they meet at Roseworth Terrace – so someone will drop crucial points.
South North skipper John Graham (virus) looks set to lose his ever-present tag.
Andrew Elliott is drafted into the South Shields team in place of Nathan Watson at home to second-bottom Benwell Hill.
Hetton Lyons name an unchanged side for their trip to Stockton, while Durham Academy expect to have a full squad available at Tynemouth.