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Expectations rise at Norton
9:00am Saturday 16th July 2011 in Durham Senior League
An unbeaten run of 12 games has lifted expectations at Norton, with the Teesside outfit now nestled nicely in the leading group, all seven of whom have designs on the title.
Norton began their campaign with a trip to Kimblesworth where the newly promoted side were keen to show off their abilities at the higher level, and they did that to great effect by handing out a heavy beating which left their opponents with just a single point and concerns that this might be a season of struggle. But Norton have not lost since that opening match, and last week's victory at Philadelphia on a day when Whitburn were the only other side to win, moved them into the throng of teams ganging up behind leaders Kimblesworth. The top dogs hold a 13 point lead over second-placed Horden, but just six points separate the six sides occupying the second to seventh placings in the table. Whitburn are one of those six so their visit to Station Road today will provide a clear pointer as to which of the two teams is likely to challenge in the final weeks of the campaign. The visitors are boosted by the return of skipper David Bell who has now recovered from injury, and Paul Cook retains his place with Paul Shields unavailable. Norton show just one change with Andrew Shepherd called up in Ben Duncan's absence.
Kimblesworth have long since proved that opening day success was no flash in the pan, and they have the chance to further consolidate their position at the summit when they entertain their closest challengers Horden.
And they have the boost of being able to include Paul Craig in their starting line-up after his return from holiday. Indeed, Secretary Malcolm Bartle suggests that they now have a full squad for the rest of the season, with all holidays and â€˜other jaunts' finished! Horden are not quite so fortunate with skipper Adrian Hedley having to sit this one out because of suspension, so youngster Josh Broome earns a call up.
In another top group encounter full strength Burnmoor, who were the most unlucky side last week when the weather robbed them of a victory at Boldon which would have pushed them into second place, entertain an Eppleton team who will have to cope without their leading batsman Kyle Davis. However, Craig Scurr has got over his hamstring strain and plays.
Champions Boldon have a full squad to choose from with Michael Bittlestone now available again, but they will find hosts Felling a tough nut to crack with the Gateshead outfit having recovered from a dreadful start to the season where they lost their first four games. Unbeaten in nine, Felling are at full strength although today will mark Chris Taylor's last match as he prepares for a tour of duty with the army.
In other team news Richard McGlasham and Alan Unsworth miss Castle Eden's crucial home match against a Philadelphia team that welcomes back Shaun Hauxwell, and Durham City are able to select Mike Elliott and Steve Brooke for the visit of a South Hetton side that includes Tom Cosford.