Darlington suffered a body blow to their title hopes in the Darlington Building Society North Yorkshire and South Durham ECB Premier League when Marton earned a hard fought two wicket victory at Feethams.
With Richmondshire easily defeating a depleted Normanby Hall who two days earlier had posted their first win in two months, the end result was that the Dalesmen increased their lead over the Quakers to 16 points.
Darlington were restricted to 159 for eight in their 50 overs, this despite a half century from James Dobson, and Marton eased their way to victory with just five balls of the game remaining.
The Dalesmen were made to earn their runs as they laboured through 49 overs to score 180 for four, Mike Layfield the key man with an unbeaten 85 scored from 132 balls. Hall were then unable to resist the twin menace of Craig Marshall (5-25) and Shani Dissanayake (5-15) who spun their side to another victory inside 26 overs.
On a Saturday where rain cut short four of the seven games, Normanby, buoyed by the acquisition of the Kent and former Durham all-rounder Mark Davies as their new professional, produced one of their best performances to defeat Guisborough by five wickets, while Sedgefield slipped down the points chart as their game at Hartlepool was abandoned.
Only one setback came among the top three who all still have a chance of winning the championship, and that involved Marton, who fell ten further points behind the Dalesmen when their game with Middlesbrough was abandoned.
They are now 26 points from the top slot and must beat Darlington at Feethams this afternoon to stay comfortably in the race.
The Quakers beat Thornaby and the rain to stay within three points of Richmond but this latest win, their 14th in 21 games – four more than either of their main rivals – was a rather nervy affair.
With Doug Mulholland (4-22) and Jon Barnes (4-31) both doing their job so well that Thornaby were skittled for just 80 runs in 41.3 overs, they seemed set for an easy passage.
But they lost seven wickets in getting the runs required with their highest scorer making just 19. Dale Metcalfe (4-30 from 17 overs) made them sweat as their top order batsmen struggled.
Sadly the defeat, the 14th, leaves Thornaby 64 points from safety and with little hope of escape from returning to the lower division next season.
Who accompanies them has started a whole new guessing game following Normanby’s push for survival. The Hall’s change of fortune was the result of a successful return to the league for Davies. The Kent man took the first two wickets to fall for just two runs and then, with his new side losing four wickets for just 32 runs, he came to the crease to share in a winning partnership.
He scored an unbeaten 45 from 57 balls with eight fours while Martin Rose made 25 not out with four boundaries having faced 63 balls. There were two ‘fivefors’ in the match, Martin Brown (5-26) for Normanby and Guisborough’s skipper, Chris Nicholls (5-30). At one stage the home side were 54 for eight but recovered to post 113, although still not enough.
Unfortunately for Normanby they will meet high flying Richmond without either of their pro’s, Davies who is playing for Kent Seconds and Dan Hodgson who is back with Yorkshire.
And those who are playing will face opponents who have a string of bowlers in their best form.
Against hapless Barnard Castle, Shaun Charlton (5-25 from 12.4 overs) did the most damage although Craig Swainston (3-14) and Shani Dissanayake (2-1) shared the other 13 overs which helped shatter Barney for the second lowest league score of the season. They also hold the record for the lowest, 31 against Darlington, on the season’s opening day.
Marton’s bad luck with the weather came after they had removed both Middlesbrough’s openers, James Lowe and Paul Johnston, for just 29 in reply to 159 on a rain affected pitch. Ryan Buckley (5-34), James Lowe (3-39) and James Burke (2-18) shared the wickets as Marton managed just one decent partnership, 48 between Upul Indrasiri (39) and Lee Hodgson (36).
In the other abandoned games, Marc Symington (89 not out) rescued Hartlepool after they slumped to 20 for six against Sedgefield but finished with 145.
Steve Naylor (4-48), Martin Lower (3-43) and Martin Cull (2-21) were lively. In the washed out ‘old foes derby’ at Stokesley, Chris Batchelor hit 76 with six fours and two sixes for Great Ayton who reached 213 for five. The overnight storm along the coast caused Redcar’s game with Saltburn to be called off entirely.
It was a very similar match at Sedgefield (142 for six) where the home side gained a welcome win over bottom club Thornaby to provide some clear blue water between themselves and the bottom two. Nisal Randika was the all-round star with 47 runs and 3-12, while Martin Cull took 4-18 as the visitors were bowled out for 60.