ANOTHER bank holiday double header beckons for teams in the First Division, with several key clashes certain to have a bearing on the title race.
Of the eight games involving the top six clubs, no fewer than four of them involve straight head to heads, with second-placed Horden, along with Esh Winning and Tudhoe, in the very thick of the battle with both their games involving top level opponents.
Horden have been pretty impressive to date, and they are one of just three teams who remain unbeaten. But that record will come under real threat this weekend with today’s home game against Esh being followed by an equally daunting trip to Tudhoe on Monday.
And their task has not been made any easier by the fact that they will be missing the Gilbert brothers, Lee and David, in both games as the siblings enjoy Lee’s stag weekend. Having survived their batting nightmare at Easington last week Esh have kept faith with the same eleven for their double which concludes with a home game against the team just one place below them in the table, Mainsforth.
Tudhoe have received a major boost ahead of their two games. They are already comforted by the fact that they will have home advantage on both days, with Dawdon visiting this afternoon followed by the Horden match, and they will be able to count on the services of two key players who have missed the last couple of weeks.
Ross Hodgson dislocated his shoulder a fortnight ago, but is back in action much sooner than anticipated, while South African professional Kushen Kishun, who had to return to his home country, is now back in the country and ready to build on his promising start to his Tudhoe career.
With points certain to be dropped across the three days Burnmoor could well consolidate their position at the head of the table as their two games involve a trip to bottom club Evenwood today, followed by a home game against misfiring Philadelphia. The Moor have to reckon without Ian Conn and Stephen Meek for today’s match, and whilst Meek might play on Monday new signing Will Philips misses that one because of exam commitments. Mr Dependable Gary Brown will once again dust off his whites.
The good times may be on the way back for Durham City with their early season form suggesting they are at long last on the road to recovery.
City are already 20 points clear at the top of the Second Division table after an unbeaten start to the season, and after several years of struggle at the wrong end of the Durham Senior League, followed by last summer’s ‘relegation’ to the bottom tier, their new found confidence is heartening for a club with a proud playing tradition.
There is just one set of fixtures in the second tier this weekend and City face a side who come from the opposite end of the cricketing ‘ladder’ when they entertain Whiteleas. Just a couple of years ago Leas were plying their trade in the North East Durham League, but the ambitious club have made great strides in recent times and, having strengthened their squad over the close-season and they are likely to be one of the main challengers for promotion.
Although missing the influential Subhan Christudas through work, skipper Jake McCann has three players returning, with Danni Hazell, Scott Steel and Mudara Senanayake back in the side. Leas are forced into one change with keeper Andrew Potts missing. Alan Beadle steps up from the second team, while Scott Oliver will become the glove man in Potts’ absence. They go into the match trailing City by 29 points, but do have a crucial game in hand.
Ryhope are in second place in the table, and they will be keen to reinforce their own promotion challenge when they go to Langley Park who came back down to earth with a bump at Durham last week. With Connor Cheal still sidelined by a knee injury they stick with an unchanged line-up as they seek to extend their unbeaten start.