Treble challenge sure to shape Eppleton’s summer

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EPPLETON have been having a quiet week, but things are about to change as the club gear up for three games in three days which will shape the rest of their Dukes North East Premier League First Division season.

Unusually for the Church Road club, there have been no outside cup distractions this week, so the squad should be fully rested in preparation for tomorrow night’s Co-operative Funeralcare T20 quarter-final at Tynemouth, Saturday’s league game at Felling, and Sunday’s home Banks Salver semi-final against top-flight Blaydon.

That rest is badly needed as, despite everyone being available, there are a few injury concerns for Eppleton, with the most worrying being David Wilkinson’s groin strain which is said to put him in the “serious doubt” category.

It may be that they have to prioritise his appearances, but there is a difficulty in prioritising when all three competitions hold out an opportunity of glory.

The others on the treatment table are Zaheer Shahbaz (tennis elbow), Rizwan Ullah (arm injury) and Craig Scurr (tight hamstring), but it is expected that all three of them will be starters.

If not, the Hetton club would have a serious problem in the bowling department!

Eppleton moved back into second place in the league table following their emphatic defeat of Willington last weekend, but Felling might provide sterner opposition after they showed much improved form in their surprise win at Sacriston.

The Gateshead outfit make one change, with Johnny Nicholls returning to action sooner than expected following a recent operation.

Boldon had a bad day at South Shields last week to fall 61 points behind the table-toppers, and promotion now looks like too big an ask.

But, with the seven teams from second down to eighth just covered by 36 points, there is still plenty to play for and Boldon skipper Chris Ellison is just delighted to have a full complement to choose from.

He said: “We’ve nee lads away at Lightwater Valley this week!”

Boldon host Sacriston on Saturday, but they do have one doubt with Neil Mulvaney suffering a calf injury when batting last time out, and, at the moment, he is rated doubtful. If he fails to recover in time, Nick Sampson-Barnes will be called up in his place.

It’s four in a row for South Shields with yet another Wood Terrace encounter beckoning for the top dogs. They have made the most of the previous three home games, winning all of them to move into a healthy lead at the top of the tree with just 10 games remaining.

Chairman Jim Elliott believes that, despite the absence of Gordon Muchall and Michael Richardson this week, the rest of the squad is building up to full strength now academic years are ending.

He said: “We have students Sam Taylor-Gell and Ryan West available for the rest of the season now, and, with Ollie Stedman and Andrew Elliott also returning, I believe we have our strongest squad available except for the Durham player.

“Most games appear to be close in a very competitive league and we are therefore delighted to have the points in the bag. It appears that anyone can win on a good day no matter who the opposition, and that can only be good for us as it means the rest take points off each other.”

Seaham Harbour entertain a Willington side who are already 31 points adrift at the foot of the table after suffering six defeats so far, and unchanged South Hetton take on Washington, who have Andrew Ebdale back – he comes in for Dan Talbot.