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Castle Eden on a high
A fascinating duel is in prospect at Horden today where the new-look home side take on a Castle Eden team who have made a tremendous start to the season and boast the only remaining one hundred per cent record.
A winter recruitment programme that saw well-travelled pro Masood Mirza arrive, along with Palav Kumar and Max Bailey, looks to have paid dividends with powerful victories resulting from the two matches Horden have managed so far.
And while frustrated by the weather last week their opening successes ensured they remained in second place, 16 points behind Felling.
Just one place and five points further back are Castle Eden, who have made steady progress since their promotion from the Coast League in 2009. An 11th place finish in 2010 was followed by a move up to eighth last season, and now, with a game in hand over the two above them, they have the chance to hit the top spot for the first time if they can maintain the form that has seen them defeat Philadelphia and, notably, champions Kimblesworth.
But the final piece in their team jigsaw is not yet in place with visa problems delaying the arrival of their Indian overseas player, Ryan D'Souza. With his arrival now appearing more and more unlikely the club have been looking for a short-term replacement.
Surprise package Felling, at the top for the first time in six years, will be another team put to the test.
At Burnmoor, they missing three key players with influential skipper Chris Taylor working in Germany, and Mike Malthouse and Lee Hargreaves unavailable. Jack Tilley, 15, starts, with Simon Ward and Mark Douglas also earning a call-up.
Champions Kimblesworth bared their teeth at last on Monday night when racking up over 200 in an Armbrister tie, and that could be just the encouragement they need to kick-start their league season after two defeats from two.
They entertain unchanged Eppleton today, but first team regular Liam Dixon has moved on, signing for Gateshead Fell after feeling he wasn't getting enough opportunity with his home club.
Dixon is the son of former Hartlepool United footballer Kevin who has been a key component of the Kimbles' attack throughout their successful years, and at age 51 had been thinking of retiring. However, following his son's move, the club have persuaded him to continue playing.
Mark Symington is brought into the Marsden team to strengthen their batting for the visit of same-again Boldon, James Tompkinson plays for Norton against unchanged Whitburn, and David Craig skippers Philadelphia against South Hetton in Shaun Smith's absence.