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Nicholson confident of win.

NORTHUMBERLAND wicketkeeper and captain Phil Nicholson believes his side can come up on the rails in the MCCA Trophy to claim second spot in Group Two and qualify for the last eight, writes JEFF BOWRON.

Nicholson's side, who currently prop up the table after opening with two defeats, host leaders Staffordshire at Longhirst Hall in Morpeth tomorrow.

While Northumberland have struggled Staffordshire have opened with three wins against Suffolk, Hertfordshire and Norfolk - all of them by considerable margins. Nicholson, however, believes the form book can be turned upside down and that his side can acquire the winning habit to keep their MCCA Trophy hopes alive.

"Obviously we're not in a great position," said Nicholson, "but if we can finish with two wins there is still a chance we could qualify with four points.

"We have named our strongest side of the season so far. A number of players have had to overlooked with Allan Worthy and Mark Wood returning and new player-coach Rich Wilkinson making his debut." Barnsley all rounder Wilkinson is an off spinner who bats at number seven, and he replaces the departed Graeme Bridge in the paid ranks.

"We are pleased to have Rich on board," added Nicholson "he won't be able to wave a magic wand but he will contribute with both bat and ball as well as off the pitch.

"With Garry Scott also making his home debut we have got a strong side, and one that is capable of getting the result we need. We didn't play very well in the opening day defeat against Hertfordshire but we played a lot better at Norfolk when we had the worst of the conditions.

If I had called right with the toss at Norwich we would have won the game and we've now got to win our last two group games and improve our run rate and see if it is enough." Staffordshire, coached by former England, Derbyshire and Hampshire batsman Kim Barnett, include former first class player Mo Sheikh.

NORTHUMBERLAND: PJ Nicholson - capt/wk, DJ Rutherford (Benwell Hill), A Worthy (Blaydon), DG Shurben (South Shields), I Pattison (Swalwell), GM Scott (Normanby Hall), AD Cragg, CRD Smith (South North), MJ Symington (Hartlepool), RM Wilkinson - pro (Barnsley), MA Wood (Durham Academy) STAFFORDSHIRE: PJ Wilshaw, JK Manuel, DA Wheeldon, RP Harvey, NA James, MA Sheikh, BT McGuire, PSJ Goodwin - capt/wk, GR Willott, CJ Barker, WRJ Purser..
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 16, 2009
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