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New look Murton lead the way
Murton's close-season recruitment programme has so far paid handsome dividends with their new look side dodging the showers and sweeping to three consecutive victories.
And with many other teams in the league being casualties of the weather the side that finished bottom of the heap in 2011, with just one victory all season, are now 23 points clear of the rain-soaked field.
But their rags to riches story is set to be given a stern examination in the first double league programme of the new campaign.
They begin at Dawdon this afternoon against a side with clear title ambitions of their own, and then they entertain Ryhope tomorrow, the team who walloped champions Boldon CA two weeks ago.
After a couple of horrendous seasons Murton rebuilt their squad, bringing in six new faces, and all have made their mark with former Northallerton duo John Sample and Richard Bentley benefitting from the bowler friendly conditions.
One of the other signings was Anthony Gale, who moved from Dawdon, and he makes an early return to play his former team-mates who are skippered by his brother Stephen.
Murton have a couple of absentees in Ian King and Keith Chapman, so seam bowler Kevin Mawhinney is drafted in, Dawdon should be unchanged.
Champions Boldon CA occupy an unfamiliar position near the foot of the table following the mauling at Ryhope and a washout, so they are keen to kick-start the title defence in their double which involves a trip to Hylton and a home game against Easington.
The Hylton match should enable them to hand debuts to their two new signings, with Brian Conlon another set to play against former colleagues, and Owen Gwyn champing at the bit following his move from Hetton Lyons.
Seaham Park face two away days - at Washington and Peterlee. Michael Evans returns but Alex Ludlow misses the second game with James Downes replacing him against a team that the Park always have trouble with, including the final game of 2011 that cost Seaham the title.
Washington are missing Lee Rushworth for a couple of weeks, but they will be able to play their Academy youngsters, James Thompson and Adam Hickey, in tomorrow's match at Silksworth subject to agreement by Durham.
Michael Rich misses both Seaham Harbour's matches with Andy Stephenson making a welcome return, Ben Green replaces the unavailable Micky Buckingham at Peterlee, Lee Gilbert is back in harness for Ryhope, Kit Allan senior returns for Hylton tomorrow, and Bill Quay select Mark Johnson for the missing Micky Orridge tomorrow.