Alastair Shields hoping North Down can capitalise on run of NCU Premier League home games

Stuart Nelson has registered important half-centuries against CIYMS and Muckamore for North Down.
Stuart Nelson has registered important half-centuries against CIYMS and Muckamore for North Down.
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North Down will be looking to continue their impressive Robinson Services Premier League form when they welcome Carrickfergus to The Green on Saturday.

The Comber side have won four of their five league matches with the only blip coming in a tight four-wicket defeat away to reigning champions CIYMS in a match that was only decided in the final over.

“It’s been really good,” said captain Alistair Shields of his side’s league campaign.

“There are a few away wins in there as well which is always pleasing. We have a stretch of home games now so hopefully we can make the most of that.”

It has been in contrast to their 50-over cup performances where they were beaten by Instonians and CSNI in the Gallagher Challenge Cup and Clear Currency Irish Senior Cup respectively.

They were also beaten by two runs in a Twenty20 Cup semi-final last week by Waringstown, but Shields will be looking for his men to use that as motivation in the Premier League.

“We only have the league left to play for so all of our energy is going into that,” he added.

“It’s disappointing that the two real bad performances we have put in came in the two 50 over cups and we were edged out in a tight one last Friday night that we should have won, so all our attention is on the league.”

A bright spark for North Down has been the form of Stuart Nelson, who has impressed since receiving a permanent promotion up the batting order.

He has registered important half-centuries against CIYMS and Muckamore, and Shields is delighted to see Nelson seizing the opportunity.

“We committed to giving guys like Stuarty and a few others opportunities this year,” he said.

“It would be remiss of us to bring in the likes of Craig Young and then overlook the guys who have been with us for a few years.

“We committed that we weren’t going to do that and we were going to stick by them and he has repaid that faith, so long may it continue.”

Overseas professional Ruhan Pretorius has also been at his brilliant best for the majority of the 2019 campaign and has already passed the 500-run mark for the season.

“I’ve said it for a couple of years now that Ruhan is far and away the best professional in the league,” added Shields.

“That’s purely because he can win matches with bat and ball and does it on a consistent basis with both.

“We are delighted with how he is playing, and just like with Stuarty, long may his form continue.”

North Down are only four points behind leaders CIYMS but will be looking for some revenge this weekend after losing to Carrick by six wickets last season.

“They are a good side and it’s been said a few times that there is a bit of surprise around how their league form has went and they are a better side than their position would represent,” said Shields.

“We aren’t under any illusions and aren’t taking Saturday’s game lightly. They’ve got a real quality pro and top players around him, so it’ll be by no means an easy game.”