THE pressure will be on New Zealand international Tom Latham to hit his straps immediately if he is to rescue a season that has turned sour for South Shields.
Latham was due to debut in last week’s game at Denton Bank after being released by his country at the end of the Test series against England, but a late change of arrangements saw him travelling down the M1 to join up with Scottish Saltires for their game at Chelmsford against Essex while his new team-mates were crashing to defeat at Benwell Hill.
Latham will line up alongside Gordon Muchall in today’s home game against Chester-le-Street, so Shields hope to have many more runs to play with than they have enjoyed so far. And Chester are not problem-free - they have a few injury concerns with Chris Youldon nursing an injured thumb and Gareth Wade a hernia problem, while their leading bowler, David Foster, is unavailable.
Ironically it is Latham’s last NEPL club, Gateshead Fell, who represent Shields’ quickest route to salvation as they are a mere two points in front at the moment.
They are at the Emirates ICG today where they take on an injury-plagued Academy side who are likely to be missing skipper James Weighell with a hand injury. Fell make one change with Michael Dicks back to replace Jack Jessop.
Paul Hindmarch made a surprise debut for South North last week, and he plays in their game at Jesmond. The former Durham man had been released by Washington a few weeks ago when his Unicorns commitments meant he would miss league games, so the Bulls snapped him up, although accepting that his current trials with several counties could mean he doesn’t play that many games.
Blaydon’s success in the national club cup has proved a pleasant distraction to the more mundane affairs of the league where they have been out of sorts.
But with a regional final against South North coming up on June 23, they need to refocus their attentions if they are to get back into the title race.
A home game against Hetton Lyons presents the chance to do just that, and with Chris Varley back from London they are at full strength against a Lyons team missing hamstring victim Gary Scott. Josh Coughlin deputises.
In today’s other top-flight games, unchanged Sunderland entertain leaders Stockton, the Teessiders without Keaton Jennings, while Ali Maiden is Benwell Hill’s only absentee for the trip to Tynemouth.
It may have taken a little time to warm up, but today promises to provide the first big clash of the summer in the First Division when leaders Whitburn travel to second-placed Brandon to tackle a team who are many people’s tip for the top.
Brandon’s victory last week was inspired by a Karl Turner century and the former Notts man should be available for this game. However, Ruel Brathwaite is definitely out, the big man sidelined by a hamstring injury, and with Jorden Grosert and Matthew Whaley both missing, the depth of the Brandon squad is likely to be tested for the first time.
Whitburn have announced just one change, putting them at full strength with Neil Johnson declared fit. Despite suggestions that Johnson’s calf injury would be risked in last week’s game discretion eventually proved to be the better part of valour and he was given a further week to recover, something that may produce dividends.