SECOND-PLACED Richmondshire have the biggest match in a long time at Hurgill Road in the Darlington Building Society NYSD ECB Premier League.

They entertain league leaders Marton, who hold a slender eight-point lead at the top, and vice-captain Robert Carr said: “It’s a massive game, but we are at home and we hope to be top again, by the end of the day.

“James Kelly comes in for Josh Dowson who is away, and he will be hoping to get his brother Owen out, who joined Marton earlier this season. Other than that, we are at full strength.”

Marton skipper Alex Wardell said: “We played well against Seaton last week, to pick up 25 points and keep top spot. It’s always a tough game there, but we are looking forward to testing ourselves against one of the favourites for the league.”

Barnard Castle suffered a rare defeat last week at home to Great Ayton, and they will be looking to get back on track at Thornaby. Skipper James Quinn is expecting an immediate turnaround: “Last week our performance was simply not good enough, however there’s no time to dwell on it. It’s time for the whole team to take responsibility upon themselves, to help contribute to a positive team performance.”

Darlington are on the road to Middlesbrough, in a very important game at the wrong end of the table. Club secretary Garry Moody said: “We have Jonny Pears missing as he is on holiday, and is replaced by Nathan Wright.”

Just 22 points separate the two clubs with Boro in the relegation zone. Skipper Leigh Beaumont said: “Our batting is under-performing for sure, and the professionals have not scored the runs expected in our young side and it needs to change, however, morale is still good in the team.”

In the Dukes ECB North East Premier League Hetton Lyons host Whitburn with both teams just 20-odd points above the relegation trapdoor. Skipper Jonathan Malkin said: “I am unavailable due to a wedding and Robert Talbot has left the club."

Skipper Paul Shields said: “We make one change from last week, Laurence Wood comes in for Jack Burnham who is unavailable, because of Durham commitments. We are looking forward to the game after a positive result last Saturday against Newcastle. It will be a tough game at Hetton Lyons who are a strong team, with lots of dangerous players.”

Chester-le-Street in fourth travel to second placed Burnmoor and skipper John Coxon feels they are back in the title race. He said: “Last week was a tremendous win against a strong Tynemouth team. Jake McCann batted superbly and showed great fitness, to get to a well-deserved first hundred for the team.

“The win sets up a great game this weekend at Burnmoor. They are a strong team, in all departments so we will have to be well up for the challenge. Liam Burgess is away, but we hopefully will have everyone else to call upon.”

Burnmoor skipper Alec Linsley said: “Ross Hodgson misses the game as he is at a football presentation and is replaced by McKenzie Wright. I have nearly recovered from a foot injury and will come back in, with Riley Blunt making way.

“We were disappointed not to get a maximum points win last week, but the winning draw puts us second, as we approach the halfway stage. This is an old derby, but the first time we’ve faced each other in top flight. They’ve been a major force since its inception and have a very strong side, but we will have home advantage and give it our best shot to create an upset!”

Sacriston travel to Burnopfield and fixture secretary Iain Bestford said: “We are missing Will Gidman (work commitments) and Jack Keall (holiday), and so will call up Andrew Dixon and Craig Robertson from the second team. Jonny Bushnell and Matty Potts remain unavailable for selection.

“We are looking to build on a great win last weekend against South North, although the loss of Will and Jack will mean we have to perform above and beyond that level, if we are to take anything away from a very talented Burnopfield team, that have settled nicely in their first season in Premier Division.”

Eppleton travel to third-placed Tynemouth and the home side are just 19 points behind leaders South North. However, the visitors have been a tough nut to crack this season, are fifth in the table and will certainly be looking for a positive result.

Lanchester, second in Division 1 of the Northumberland and Tyneside Cricket League, travel to Annfield Plain and skipper Kieron Taylor said: “Stuart McPhail is on holiday, but Cameron Metcalfe is back from University, to replace him. We are looking to finish the first half of season strongly, after a really good win against Swalwell last week.”

Division 2 leaders Leadgate entertain Blue Flames and will miss Graham Hubb and Gary Innes, but the rest are holding up well. One enforced change is batsman Darren Benford returns at the expense of Luke Murray, who drops to the seconds, to continue his cricket education.

Faisal Bobby, the Blue Flames captain, said: “We hope to put right everything that went wrong for us last time out. Where better to do that than at the home of the league leaders. Nothing seemed to go our way last week, but we will pick ourselves up and go again on Saturday.”

The top four in Division One of the Readers Durham Cricket League play each other, as league leaders Easington travel to second-placed Marsden in the match of the day. The visitors have a 28-point advantage at the top, and both teams are unbeaten in ten games so far this season. Skipper Jason Moses said: “We are unchanged for the match and can’t wait for the game to start.”

Seaham Park, in fourth, entertain third-placed Philadelphia and skipper Adrian Headley is full of optimism. He said: “The side remains the same and if they all do their jobs, there could well be success at the end of the match. The team can meet any situation that arises, so if the opposition is inserted the bowling unit can easily skittle them when on form.

“Similarly, the batting unit can pile up the runs, if they are asked to bat first and give the bowlers plenty of time to remove their opponents. It boils down to which team turns up on the day to claim the spoils!"

Philadelphia chairman Malcolm Pratt said: “Following the disappointment of losing heavily to Marsden last Sunday, which cost us second place in the table, we will field a much stronger side when we visit Seaham Park.”