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Title race reaching it's climax
The tension is mounting at both ends of the table as the NYSD season reaches its conclusion, with today's penultimate fixtures especially intriguing for six clubs.
In one of the most unpredictable title battles in years the leadership of the Premier Division has changed hands in each of the last four rounds, with two points separating the leading pair.
The hot potato that is the leadership rests with Darlington, who face a tricky trip to Barnard Castle in a game that could be about who isn't playing rather than who is.
A week after his maiden Premier League century, Quakers keeper James Dobson is holidaying, and with Sam Hardy also unavailable Colin Biglin and Andrew Sturgeon deputise.
Barney also have absentees with pro James Finch and Justin Hesp away. Rob Dixon returns and youngster Phil Merryweather is promoted.
Richmond go to Fountains Garth with Brad Elsworth in the side following his recovery from a work-related hand injury, while skipper Mike Layfield plays despite a knee injury in the inter-league game in Nottingham last Sunday where he covered an enormous amount of ground on a saturated deep cover boundary. Guisborough have to reckon without the suspended Martin Hood, but Ryan Murray returns.
At the opposite end of the table Thornaby, propping up the rest, have received a significant boost with the news that Indika de Saram will be back to play in their final two games, starting with the crucial game against relegation rivals Billingham Synthonia.
The Sri Lankan international left at the end of July to fulfil contractual obligations to play in the SLPL, but with that tournament now ended he was on a flight back to the UK on Thursday, and although he caused a flutter in some Thornaby hearts by missing his Dubai connection he was still expected to arrive yesterday.
With a jet-lagged de Saram in the team the hosts will be at full strength, while Billingham expect to be unchanged.
If Marske are to get out of the bottom two they need Billingham, or even Sedgefield, to drop points while picking up as many as possible themselves. They travel to Sedgefield so victory in their last home game against Hartlepool is essential.
The bad news is that Dominic Hendricks has returned to South Africa to join up with his State team for pre-season training, and while he hasn't exactly set the world alight this summer, he is still comfortably their leading scorer with 600 runs.
At least the Seasiders won't be faced by Hartlepool's top batsman as Neil Coverdale's season is over after he suffered a hairline forearm fracture while batting a couple of weeks ago. Coverdale is second to Gary Pratt in the league averages, making him the leading amateur.
With little at stake, Pool hand opportunities to several youngsters, with 15-year-old Jake Richardson keeping wicket, 16-year-old all-rounder Harrison Smith debuting, and Josh Cannon replacing dad John who has announced his retirement.
Sedgefield are the best placed of the bottom four, and have a quantifiable target of 22 points from their last two games to secure their status.
Leven Park isn't the easiest place to go at any stage of a season and a full-strength Great Ayton, led by Steve Pennock, will provide a stern test for the unchanged visitors.