Blaydon bounced back to winning form last week with a comprehensive victory over Durham Academy, and they will travel to Ashbrooke today expecting to do well.
Another victory would have the added benefit of putting them in the right frame of mind for tomorrow’s national club cup showdown with South North at Denefield.
They will almost be at full strength for the Sunderland match, with both Craig Burke and Theo van Woerkom returning to the side after missing last week through injury. The New Zealander will have to miss the cup game though, as overseas players are not permitted, so Ross Nicholson will replace him for the match against the Bulls.
South North limber up for the national with a home derby against high flying Benwell Hill, and they will be at full strength for both games. The Hill have climbed several mountains in recent weeks, and with their undefeated run now extending to eight games Roseworth Terrace won’t hold any fears for the second-placed team as they continue their pursuit of table-toppers Stockton.
The visitors make just one change with Dan Young coming in for the unavailable Nick Jones, although the in-form batsman does return for tomorrow’s Banks Salver quarter-final against Hetton Lyons at Denton Bank.
Both teams will inevitably have an eye on proceedings at Wood Terrace where lowly South Shields are the latest to try and rob Stockton of the only remaining undefeated record in the league, and despite the fact that this looks like an away banker based on results to date, the fact that Tom Latham and Gordon Muchall will be in the home dressing room once more puts the game in a different light.
Latham had a galvanising effect on the Shieldsmen during his two league appearances prior to joining up with New Zealand to play in the T20 internationals against England, and he returns to the team looking for his third consecutive league ton. Stockton have one doubt with Josh Bousfield facing a late fitness test.
Gateshead Fell are hoping that Stockton continue their winning form as it would raise their own hopes of avoiding the relegation trap door. Lifted by their unexpected win at Sunderland they now tackle Chester-le-Street, although they do so without last week’s match winner David Hill, as well as Michael Dicks. Stephen Devenport and David Daley are drafted in to face a Street team still missing David Foster.
Newcastle play in the palatial surroundings of the Emirates ICG against the Academy, and they have been considerably strengthened by the inclusion of Martin Fearon and James Carding who make their seasonal debuts. The players making way are Ed Common, who has now left the club, and Rob Stacey.
South Hetton’s run of four wins and a draw in their last five outings has seen them shoot up the First Division rankings into second place, and they can consolidate that placing today when they entertain Brandon.
Hetton include all-rounder Nathan Adamson and seam bowler Liam Houghton, replacing the unavailable Len Houghton and Andrew Hillas, while Brandon expect to field the same side which slipped to a surprise defeat against Washington last time out.
Having toppled Brandon it’s leaders Whitburn next up for Washington and with Jak Gaff and Stephen Cuthbertson both returning they have a full squad to choose from against the table-toppers.