South Shields entertain harbour rivals Tynemouth at Wood Terrace tomorrow in what will be the Shieldsmen’s final home fixture of the season, 11am start.
In what is the penultimate weekend of the North East Premier League season, there are some key fixtures being played that will have an influence on the final league standings.
At the top of the division, South Northumberland require only 15 points from their game with struggling Stockton to secure and retain the league title.
This will be the their tenth success in the 16 seasons that the NEPL has been in existence reinforcing the Bulls as one of the country’s leading amateur teams.
At the opposite end of the table, six sides are locked in a relegation battle that will once again go right down to the wire.
The key fixture tomorrow sees the bottom two clubs Blaydon – who have 199 points – play the recent seasons escapologists Gateshead Fell – who have 205 points.
A positive result for either of these clubs would make it difficult for the other to avoid relegation.
Third-bottom Whitburn take on Hetton Lyons, who are just out of the relegation battle, but have struggled for form in recent weeks, and the villagers have a good chance of climbing to safety if they can get a good result.
The importance of the Shields/Tynemouth clash therefore cannot be underestimated, as a victory for either team would lift them to safety, and secure their Premier Division status for another season.
The loser will have the pressure of possibly needing to gain points from their final game of the season to keep them in the top division.
Shields are confident going into tomorrow’s clash, having put in a good performance last week to get the better of Stockton, where they had the Teessiders 118-9, just failing to clinch the outright victory.
Tim David led the way with the bat for Shields, with a superb unbeaten 92. The young Australian batsman has enjoyed a very productive season, having plundered 959 league runs, and a good score tomorrow could see him be the first batsman in the league to go through the magical 1,000 run barrier.
Liam Dixon, on his return after a four-week absence, continued where he left off with a great four-wicket haul, taking his tally of league wickets for the season to an impressive 38.
Skipper Chris Rainbow will also be pleased to have strike bowler Chris Stewart back, and the seamer will come straight back in to lead the bowling attack.
Michael Dunn also comes back into the team having missed the Stockton game, as does Uzi Afaq and the pair will add a bit or extra power to the top order batting.
Rainbow is also hoping that Durham man Gordon Muchall will be available to bolster the batting line up, which with the exception of David, has been a bit fragile this season.
Muchall will also offer a much needed seam bowling option, which will come in useful, as seen last week against Stockton where the county man bagged 4-40 in his 13 over spell.
Rainbow said: “This is a big game for us and getting Stewart, Afaq and Dunn back significantly strengthens the team.
“We have been short of a few players the last couple of weeks and so have not been able to put in the competitive performances that we are capable of.”
The second team take on Seaham Harbour at New Drive (12.30pm), and skipper Anth Marshall includes seniors Alan Stevenson, Chris May and Brad Skinner to complement his strong young team, who have continued to develop well this season.