There are just five games remaining, and the title race is still wide open as just 27 points divide the top three.

Great Ayton lead the way with 288 points and welcome Middlesbrough to Leven Park.

Skipper Jon Grainge said: “I was pleased to retain our lead after a hard-fought game at Barnard Castle last weekend. However, this one will be a tough encounter as Boro have been excellent in patches this year.”

Boro have lacked consistency and sit in mid-table. But they will still be looking over their shoulders, as they could still slip into the relegation mess.

Their skipper Leigh Beaumont is missing, replaced by 15-year-old Alfie Taylor-Clarke, while Adil Ditta returns after a century in the seconds, in place of Yash Vagadia.

Barnard Castle and will be unchanged for their trip to Thornaby.

They had the better of the game with Ayton last week and skipper James Quinn was quick to emphasise that fact: “We were really pleased with our performance against the leaders, as we came back from tough positions with both bat and ball, to get a positive result and close the gap on them.”

Thornaby skipper Paul Allen said: “Unfortunately, it’s been a difficult period for the club to field consistent teams recently, due to work responsibilities and holidays. However, I thought we played well for most of the game last week against Hartlepool, but we lacked discipline in the final 20 overs which led to defeat.”

Richmondshire are third, and have Great Ayton at home next weekend. This weekend they travel to Marske and skipper Gary Pratt said: “It’s always a good track there, so we will be trying to win to stay in touch with the top two.”

Skipper Chris Veasey is missing for the Seasiders. Stand-in Lee Hodgson said: “After a much needed win against Middlesbrough we will be looking for another positive result. We are desperate for points to avoid relegation.”

At the bottom, Bishops are 35 points from safety, but should Richmondshire second team finish in the top two of Division One, only one team will be relegated. That currently pitches them just nine points from safety behind Marske.

They entertain Marton and skipper Scott Oldfield said: “We only have five games left and they are all are massive for the club. We have to keep the attitude the same, but must apply ourselves a little better with the bat.”

A win for Marton will probably see them safe. Skipper Alex Wardell said: “We make two changes, as Chris Allinson and Ben Hutchinson return and Scott Kirby and James Collinge go to the second team. A poor batting performance last Saturday cost us and we are looking to bounce back.”

Hartlepool are third bottom and head to Darlington, a point ahead of Marton. Will Boyd replaces the unavailable Doug Mulholland.

Michael Gough senior, the club secretary, said: “Last weekend we had a fine win against Thornaby in a tight game. The cornerstone was excellent batting and bowling performances by James Lowe,Mark Davies and Matt Adamson. However, the stand-out display was by 16-year old George Relton who scored 44 not out in a crucial stage of the game, when we were chasing runs and losing wickets.”

Darlington’s Garry Moody said: “Paul Freary is missing and wicketkeeper Andrew Sturgeon returns, with Lee Hutton staying in the side, following some useful contributions with the bat.”

An attractive match looks set for Hornby Park, as fifth-placed Seaton Carew welcome Stokesley in fourth.

Skipper Paul Braithwaite said: “We go into the game looking to continue our recent form with the ball, but this time without the in-form Dave Storey, so Stuart Lobb comes in.”

Stokesley secretary Mark Smith said: “The lads are buoyant after a close win against Bishop Auckland last weekend. Hopefully with better support from our batters, we look forward to making it three wins in a row, against an in-form Seaton Carew.”