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Darlington's hopes hit by Barnes blow
Darlington's title hopes have taken a jolt when Jon Barnes, suffered an injury in practice that threatens his season.
A Tuesday night net session ended in disaster for Barnes when, in attempting to field a ball shelled back at him in the nets, he damaged an old hand injury, and even though X-rays have indicated there is no new fracture, a fused end knuckle will hamper him as it is his bowling hand that is affected.
Barnes has undergone intensive treatment over the last few days but there remains a doubt over whether he will be fit to take his place in the Feethams line-up to face Billingham Synthonia.
The Quakers will make a late decision on Barnes, and also promote youngster Sam Hardy to play against a Synners team still fighting for the Premier Division lives.
Billingham are 11 points above the drop zone but have an intense final three games which, as well as the Darlington match, include a trip to Richmondshire and a game against relegation rivals Thornaby. With Danny Burgum unavailable, the gloves are passed to 16-year-old reserve keeper Elliot Holmes, while Adam Warnes returns.
If Richmond win their final three matches the title is theirs. They lost their leadership on Saturday, only to regain their one-point lead on Monday.
Their final three matches begin with a home game against Normanby Hall, followed by a trip to Guisborough and ending on their own patch when Billingham visit. The Dalesmen are unchanged as keeper Kev Forbes could be out for the rest of the season with a broken thumb. Mattie Cowling will keep wicket in his absence while Lewis Stabler is on Yorkshire duty.
Normanby seem to have removed the relegation threat hanging over them - they sit 37 points clear of the drop zone. But the hoped for return of Janaka Gunaratne from Sri Lanka will not now happen as the player was injured in the SLPL tournament he was involved in, and with Brett Roberts unavailable Hall's side at Hurgill Road will include several youngsters.
The clubs occupying the relegation slots have work to do in their final three matches, but bottom club Thornaby expect to have Indika de Saram back from Sri Lanka to boost their escape bid which begins with a Mandale Bottoms match against Guisborough.
With Omar Shahid on holiday James Roberts retains his place after top scoring on Monday. The Priorymen will be missing Ryan Murray and promote Chris Matthews.
Marske hope home advantage will work in their favour when they entertain a Great Ayton side who have David Grainge and Mattie Wilkinson returning, and Chris Witherley recovered from a knee injury. Promising youngster Sam Harper is handed an opportunity.