Washington right up for huge Sacriston clash

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JUST a week after rising to the top of the Dukes North East Premier League First Division table, Washington take on second-placed Sacriston on Saturday.

And with only five games left to play, the outcome of their head to head is likely to have a significant bearing on the championship race.

Sacriston are just a single point behind new table-toppers Washington, but, with the chasing pack breathing down their necks, the pressure is really on for this one.

Washington have been the surprise package to some extent, but Ash Thorpe has moulded a useful outfit since his close-season move from Sunderland.

Thorpe said: “We’re really looking forward to this game.

“While there is added pressure when you are top of the league, we are delighted with our progress and are enjoying every minute.

“It’s quite remarkable that we are where we are after coming straight from the Coast League into this higher level of competition.”

Washington are unchanged and it will be interesting to see whether caution or bravado prevail in a game both will be desperate to ensure they don’t lose.

The match will have an effect on the shape of Sacriston’s team for differing reasons.

Ben Hall is on the Durham groundstaff and is obviously required to work over the next five days, while Max Bailey will be a spectator on Saturday.

Hall was missing last week too, so the only change in personnel from the win over Eppleton will be the inclusion of Phillip Long.

Long, a left-arm quick bowler, will be a straight swap for Bailey, who has done a useful job as the extra seamer since his move from Horden.

Long has been with the club since his junior days, but, because of his army work, was rarely available – Saturday will represent only his second game of the summer, and his seasonal first-team debut.

No doubt, the hope of the teams just below the top two will be that they slug each other to a standstill so both drop points and provide the opportunity for them to be overtaken.

Brandon are poised to take advantage of any slip.

They lie third, just two points off the summit, and will be heavy favourites to win at Seaham Harbour, despite their hosts winning for the first time all summer last week.

Brandon make just one change with Jordan Grossert replacing the unavailable Scott Hopson.

Grossert is the second-team keeper, but can also bowl, which will be his role on Saturday if called upon.

It’s two in and two out for Harbour, with Jack Lacey and Andy Boal back from holiday to replace Nathan Corkhill and Ryan Martin.

Whitburn had held the yellow jersey all season, but, having done well in the mountain climb stages, they will be anxious they don’t lose out when it comes to the sprint for the line.

But they do keep inventing weird and wonderful ways to injure players, with Neil Johnson now a doubt after swallowing a fly while diving to field a ball.

The subsequent convulsions to eject the offending insect led to a side strain which has required physio work all week.

Skipper Andy Turns, himself suffering from a back problem caused by moving a sight screen, had little sympathy, saying: “I wouldn’t care – he missed the ball and it went for four!”

Providing there are no other flies in the ointment, an unchanged team will take the field at Willington where the home side have Stephen Alderson back after long-term injury.

Elsewhere, with Andrew Doherty unavailable, Geoff Sargon keeps wicket for Boldon in their home game against an Eppleton team missing Craig Scurr and Liam Mallaburn, who are spectating at the Test.

South Hetton have all four players who missed last week back in the fold for the visit of rock-bottom Felling.