IT IS crunch time for Lintz as they prepare to entertain Leadgate in a must-win Wellstream NTSL game this afternoon.
A run of five successive defeats sees them anchored to the foot of the table.
A game against a team who have recorded just one win to date therefore makes it a real opportunity to break the losing sequence and start the long haul out of the danger zone.
The return of pace bowler Gary Johnson from Swalwell during the close-season, allied to Gary Christie’s recovery from a serious long-term ankle injury which blighted his 2012 campaign, gave cause for optimism Lintz could consolidate their position in the top flight.
However, the club have failed to fire so far.
The cause of their problems seems simple enough.
A lack of runs and wickets has meant they have inevitably struggled.
Just one player, Johnny Foster, has passed the 100-run mark while Johnson leads the wicket takers list with seven victims to date.
There are, however, a batch of players returning for the big game.
Brothers Jordan and Nathan Clennell, along with David Nevin and student Tom Forster, are all back to boost the club’s survival bid.
The only absentee is skipper Ryan McVittie, who hands the captain’s armband to Gary Christie.
Leadgate won’t be short of confidence themselves.
They pulled off their first win last weekend when toppling Ponteland in fine style.
As a result they moved eight points clear of the relegation placings.
Their line-up is also boosted by returning players with Ainsley Turner and Paul Hutchinson set to play.
At the opposite end of the table, Swalwell just bulldoze on, their power highlighted by the league batting averages.
They show Chris Hewison with 399 runs and Ian Pattison on 381 – the next player on that list has just 200!
Third-placed Percy Main are the latest to try their luck against the champions. Both sides are unchanged.
Burnopfield’s young side are second.
Professional Anwaar Hafeez, in splendid form, is their oldest player at 26,and he headlines in an unchanged side to play at Shotley Bridge where the home team have, surprisingly, yet to hit form.
Richard Darling returns for Tynedale’s game at Ryton, where the hosts have Peter Moore, Richard Brooks and Joe Harms back in their dressing room.
Unchanged Lanchester entertain second-bottom Consett and Annfield Plain select Phil Shield and Chris Robinson for the home game against Ponteland.
Clara Vale become the latest side to see if they can halt Bedlington’s progress in the Northumberland League.
With a full-strength team in the field for the first time in weeks, they could be capable of springing a major surprise.
Missing four players in last week’s poor performance against Tillside, the Vale say they will have their best 11 in the field to test the leaders, with all four returning including potential match-winners Marc Little and Shahzad Alvi.
The Terriers have Peter Finch and Lee Frost back in harness.
Second-placed Blagdon Park have to reckon without groin injury victim Steve Oxley for their game at Stocksfield where Alex Brown returns.
Third-placed Berwick are missing speedway followers Jordan Woodcock and James Thompson.
They bring in Martin Hush and John Simmons for their match at Warkworth.