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Exciting final on the cards
Crook's victory in Wednesday's League Cup semi-final at Tudhoe has set up a classic encounter in tomorrow's showpiece, with Town entertaining Esh Winning in the Hunter Cummings Memorial Trophy final (2pm).
It is only a couple of weeks since the teams met in a league encounter on the same ground. That match was building towards a tremendous climax before rain interrupted to leave both sides with a share of the spoils and keep Esh's unbeaten league record intact.
Both sides expect to be at full strength with Jonnie Hodgson back to bolster the champions, and Andrew Pratt (finger) and Steve Chapman (back) expected to pass fitness tests on injury niggles.
Crook spokesman Steve Thexton is expecting another closely fought contest: "I think it'll be a really good game which I think will revolve around two very strong batting line-ups.
"Esh are a very strong side with their stand out player being Yasim Murtaza - we know we have to get on top of him if we are to succeed, but we have the confidence of the last league meeting when we looked to be coasting the run chase before the rains came.''
Esh's fixture secretary Kevin Carmedy also recognises the challenge ahead: "We have every respect for Crook, after all they have three former first-class players in their side so we know to expect a hard game, and they also have home advantage.
"But while the game a couple of weeks ago ended just about even we did enjoy a good win in the first league match on our own ground earlier in the year, and we want revenge for our semi-final defeat at Crook last year which stopped us from reaching three consecutive finals.''
Before the final both teams look to reinforce their League chances in the penultimate round of fixtures before the table splits in two.
Esh entertain an Evenwood team missing Azam Naseer, although Michael Crane returns, while Crook have a swift rematch with Tudhoe. The visitors have to reckon without Dan Mahaffey, and will be hoping that their batsmen have their right heads on today following the five run outs that were the feature of their semi-final collapse.
Second-placed Willington travel to unchanged Brandon, Mainsforth welcome back a fit again Gary Purcell for the visit of a Shildon side in which the returning Martin Ferguson replaces Michael Roberts, and Ushaw Moor hope the recent dry spell will enable their home game against Langley Park to go ahead - if it does it will be only their second home match of the season.