EPPLETON are ready for lift-off after enjoying a fabulous time last weekend when everyone else was feeling down in the dumps.
With all Saturday’s cricket wiped out by the rain, Eppleton were at least able to savour their tremendous victory the night before in the Armbrister Trophy final when they successfully chased down a daunting target of 170 to destroy Boldon’s dream of a fifth win in six seasons in the prestigious competition.
Despite the size of their task, they had the game won with 15 balls to spare as Joe Kennedy, Shaun Bradbury and Craig Scurr all excelled, aided by a generous dollop of 29 wides in the extras column.
And the fact they did it without their star batsman, Kyle Davis, was a further cause for satisfaction.
Davis was also missing for the league match at Burnmoor the following day, but, as it turned out, he chose a good day to be on holiday and his return to the side this Saturday, added to the fact the Scurr is now fully fit, is a boost as Eppleton now fix their sights firmly on the title in the remaining eight games of the season.
The club have also bolstered their squad with the signing of all-rounder Andrew Robinson from Philadelphia, although he will make his debut in the second team this week.
The third-placed side enjoy home advantage against improved Felling, who have now lost Chris Taylor, probably until September, as his army duties take him away. Second-team keeper Andy McNally takes over behind the stumps.
The loss of Robinson is a blow to Philadelphia ahead of their testing home clash with leaders Kimblesworth, but they are able to turn out a settled side for the game which they need to get something out of if they are to avoid being dragged into the dogfight at the bottom of the table. Kimblesworth are at full strength.
Burnmoor have a chance to make a clear statement of intent when they travel to play second-placed Horden.
With seven teams still in with a title chance, victory would take Moor above their opponents and set up an exciting run-in.
Gary Brown misses the next couple of weeks to attend weddings, but Matthew Jane is in the starting line-up, while Horden welcome back skipper Adrian Hedley from suspension.
Castle Eden face five successive fixtures against sides in the thick of the title race, so the fact they have everyone available for the trip to Whitburn is welcome, given their perilous position – just one point above bottom club Durham City.
Their hosts include Ian Elliott and Paul Shields in place of Peter Marshall and Ross Carty, while Dave Bell skippers the team once more with his hamstring having had a further week’s rest.
Durham City will have their work cut out as well – they are away to Boldon, who now see the retention of their championship crown as their number one priority.
City welcome back Subhan Christudas for this one, while Michael Bittlestone and Gary Frater play for the Sunderland Road hosts with Anthony Brown still injured.
In Saturday’s final game, South Hetton are able to select returning 19-year-old Liam Irving for their home match against a Norton team captained by Jon Kean in the absence of regular skipper Kenny Gresham.