IT’S TIGHT at the top of the NTSL with just five points separating four teams, but that will change this afternoon when deposed leaders Ashington take on form team Annfield Plain at Langwell Crescent.

The Colliers flying start to top flight life came to a juddering halt at Tynedale last week when ,having done a decent job in the field by restricting their hosts to a modest 146, they crumbled for a paltry 48 to allow their conquerors to displace them at the top of the heap.

At the same time Plain were making life difficult for the other new boys on the A1 block, Alnmouth, who they sent packing for just 71. That combination of results left the pair of them tied in second spot, and only five points behind Tynedale. With the Annfield attack on song, Ashington will need to bat better this time around to avoid losing ground, and they are able to name a full strength side as, too, are their visitors.

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And it’s also same again for the leaders who welcome Consett to Hexham today. The visitors are not exactly in the comfort zone, having won just one of their opening games, but they do have a decent margin of safety over the bottom two to comfort them. They will play without a Ringer today – Paul Ringer is getting married – with his place going to Simon Wilkinson.

The final team in the leading quartet is Shotley Bridge who look to be gathering a head of steam. They were pretty emphatic in sweeping aside Lanchester’s challenge last week, and should have too much fire power for hosts Ryton who are struggling in the bottom two after losing three of their four matches to date. Bridge are yet another side who have the luxury of naming an unchanged line-up.

In other team news the half term break allows student teacher Jonny Denton to strengthen the Alnmouth team sheet for their home game against bottom club Burnopfield, James Ritzema makes his seasonal debut for Ponteland after finishing Uni, and Lanchester have to reckon without broken hand victim Stu McPhail as well as Jonny Green for their match at Swalwell, Haydn Petch and Matthew Callaghan earning call-ups.

In Division A2 new boys Bedlington could well be on the way to emulating Alnmouth’s feat of immediate promotion. Just a few months after earning elevation from the Northumberland League, in the same way Alnmouth did, they head the table alongside Percy Main who they fought out a trilling tie with on the opening day of the season. Alnmouth are at Lintz today, while the Main men entertain Benwell & Walbottle