Northern Rock North East Regional Premier League
SOUTH Northumberland skipper John Graham admitted his side were facing a journey into the unknown in this weekend’s final countdown to the season following their slip-up against Newcastle at the weekend.
Graham and company will begin the last fixture card in second place with Sunderland in control following their win against Norton.
The champions’ skipper says confidence is still sky high in the South North camp and feels the destination of the Premier League trophy will all boil down to how Sunderland handle the pressure of being at the top of the pile.
Their leadership will be well and truly tested in the last game as both sides bid for high points scoring wins as Sunderland take on Durham Cricket Academy and South North are home to South Shields.
Graham said: “It could not be any tighter at the top.
“We picked up a frustrating draw with Newcastle and they were hell-bent on getting a result while Sunderland beat Norton.
“The gap is only a point and psychologically you always want to be top.
“We have been there before and know how to handle that, the test for Sunderland will be if they can because they have never been there before.
“It is going to be down to a few things, starting from who wins the toss and then it will be nip and tuck from then on in.
“For certain, there will plenty of mobile phone conversations going on between the two grounds!
“I suppose it is exciting for the Premier League in general because normally we have won the league with two games to go – but everyone here is up for it.”
Sunderland hit top spot despite a good start by Norton, who moved to 112-1.
However, the Teessiders were all out for 189 with Mark Symington and Imran Shah taking five and four wickets respectively.
An unbeaten century from Gary Scott helped Sunderland ease to a 28-point return.
Meanwhile at Jesmond, South North started well enough and piled on the runs as Adam Heather (47), Graham (48) and an unbeaten 113 from Chris Hewison took his side to 278-3 – but Newcastle held on for a draw to force South North to drop 15 points.
Tynemouth entertained third-placed Blaydon and took early wickets through Barry Stewart 1-55 and Andrew Smith 3-24.
Blaydon should never have been at the races as young starlet David Hymers took 5-28 to help dismiss them for a mere 141.
There were two catches and a stumping for Matt Summers and one wicket for Mark Cummins. Graeme Bridge (35), Howells (21) and Geoff Stewart (26) had offered mid-order resistance, but the Seasiders should have cruised this one.
Cummins 22 and Angus Webster, 21 and in good batting form now, built a foundation after the early losses of Scott Thornton and Iain Purdy.
Skipper Graeme Hallam commanded the crease with 46 not out but he ended short of his half-century and Tynemouth were 12 short of the Blaydon score as wickets tumbled at the other end after Stewart’s 15.
Tynemouth were not at the races either and took only six points from a game that should have been won.
Elsewhere, Durham CA were held to a draw by Stockton – but Gateshead Fell found some form in their clash with South Shields.
They scored their second successive win with a victory at the Shieldsmen with Stephen Devenport (77) and Richard Smith’s unbeaten 64 setting up and imposing 259.
Shields ace Danny Shurben tested Fell by chalking up 42 but, after Gidman and Nicky Phillips had racked up nine wickets between them, the glory was all for Gateshead.
Meanwhile, Benwell Hill thought they had ended their home season with an emphatic win over Chester-le-Street – but were denied by the Cestrians’ Phil Nicholson (83no), Graeme Race (78) and David Myers (52).
The home side posted a total of 244-7 before the visitors stifled Hill’s attack.