CONSETT’S main aim after being promoted was to consolidate their NTSL top-flight status, but with almost a third of the season gone they are locked in the relegation placings after winning one league game, writes CHRIS WEST.
That victory came in the very first match of the season against Ryton, and the comprehensive nature of the win suggested they would have little difficulty in achieving their goal. But it’s been downhill since then with an agonising two-run defeat at Lanchester last time out leaving them 13 points adrift of safety.
One key factor in their opening-day success was an outstanding display by Gareth Breese, but he has only played one game since then because of Durham commitments and injury, and they may not see too much of him in the immediate future as he struggles to overcome a torn muscle in the back of his shoulder which is expected to sideline him for all of June.
Consett will be hard pushed to get anything from today’s game as they have to travel up to Tynedale where their hosts are in fine form after moving up to second place with several emphatic performances. The home team hope to include Jack Palmer following his recovery from a sprained ankle.
After the excitement of that two-run victory, Lanchester should at least be in good spirits for the trip to Derwenthaugh Park, where they hope to be the first team to lower Swalwell’s colours. Their only doubt is wicket-keeper Sam Reynolds, who is carrying a finger injury but is still expected to play, while the runaway leaders are unchanged again.
Annfield Plain hand a debut to new signing Liam Dixon from Chester-le-Street. He replaces Andrew Donnelly, while Jonny Killeen comes in for Phil Shield in the side that travels to Shotley Bridge. Their hosts are able to name a full-strength line-up and are keen to show that last week’s return to form was no flash in the pan.
Lintz are approaching the ‘miracles required’ stage, defeats in all their games leaving them anchored firmly to the foot of the table and already 29 points away from safety. Skipper Ryan McVittie is still unavailable, so they put out the side that lost so heavily against Leadgate last time out, while hosts Ponteland welcome back Paul Elliott and James Ritzema.
In the day’s other games Burnopfield, in joint second spot, entertain a Percy Main team that has to reckon without Jack Vickerman, while Pete Dobson replaces Paul Hutchinson and Glen Fletcher comes in for Steve Smith when Leadgate play an unchanged Ryton.
Kirkley’s disappointing Northumberland League thrashing at the hands of Tillside last week has prompted four changes for the home clash against leaders Bedlington, two of them forced as top all-rounder Craig Johnson and talisman Paul Howey are missing.
Skipper Mick Nicholson returns after a week in Scotland, but not for him any tired old clichés that are often trotted out ahead of games like this: “Bedlington are a massively strong side for this league and Kirkley are like a fellowship of Hobbits sneaking into Mordor without the support of wizards, elves or dwarves, hoping their little feet aren’t heard and an unlikely victory can be stolen while the superstars are looking the other way!” Quite.
Back on firmer ground, second-placed Blagdon Park are missing key performers Shaun Collins and Callum Urwin so they feel fortunate to have university students David Gibson and Ali Clark available to them for their much anticipated trip to Blyth, another team in the top four.