DURHAM skipper Paul Collingwood described yesterday’s one-wicket defeat against Lancashire as “gutwrenching” but pledged his side would fight all the way to avoid relegation.

Durham now have only Northamptonshire below them and are six points below Lancashire but have a game in hand. The home match against Northants, starting on September 15, is an obvious victory target.

They also have to go to Lord’s to face a Middlesex side who are not out of danger and who, like Durham, can expect spin friendly conditions when they visit Old Trafford.

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Lancashire’s other two games are at home to Yorkshire and away to Sussex.

Durham, who finish with a trip to Edgbaston, now wait until August 31 before they begin their hectic four-match run-in with a visit from titlechasing Nottinghamshire.

Ben Stokes will be with the England one-day squad, announced yesterday, but the visitors will be without Alex Hales and Harry Gurney.

With Graham Onions unlikely to play again this season, Collingwood is not confident of Mark Wood recovering from his ankle problem in time to feature.

“We are down to the bare bones but we will keep fighting,” he said. “We put in a monumental effort in an unbelievable game against Lancashire and if we maintain those standards we will win some games.

“We have a few days off now and it’s important to recharge the batteries by getting away from cricket and from each other because we’ve spent a lot of time on the bus recently. But we are still together and will come back strong.”

Collingwood was not happy when he originally saw the Old Trafford pitch, with the bowlers’ footmarks left over from the recent Test match giving Lancashire’s left-arm spinners assistance from the outset.

“I learnt something new when I spoke to the pitch inspector,” he said. “You can only call a pitch unfit if it’s the protected areas where bowlers are not allowed to run that are misbehaving.

“Those areas played well, but unfortunately Lancashire bowled a very high proportion of balls in the unprotected areas.

“We had Scott Borthwick to turn the ball into the lefthanders and selected Ryan Buckley to turn it into the right-handers but unfortunately he was ill. We also have to make selection decisions based on what the management tell us about who is bowling well.”