The annual John Bull Shield could not be more evenly poised with all four competing teams able to make the final.
Maitland must beat Newcastle C&S in the final preliminary round at Robins Oval on Sunday to make the final on February 11.
If they do they will face the winner of the other clash on Sunday when Singleton hosts reigning shield champions Cessnock.
“It’s a must win game for us. It’s probably a little disappointing that we put ourselves in this position,” skipper Lincoln Mills said.
“We had a very disappointing performance last game against Singleton.
“A few dropped catches hurt us and then a bit of ill-discipline with the bat handed Singleton the win.
“We’ve made it hard for ourselves but hopefully with the team we’ve got ready this week we can get the job done.
“It’s actually the first time I’ve ever played against Newcastle. The last few times they have forfeited against us. It will be interesting to see what we are up against.
“Apparently they’re pretty strong this year and have given it a red-hot crack. They beat Singleton in the first round.
“It’s shaped up to be a pretty good finish all round with whoever wins their game making the final.”
There are a few changes to the Maitland line-up headed by Western Suburbs star No.3 Aaron Mahony, who is unavailable for the match..
“He is a big loss for us, but Will Fort comes back into the team for him,” Mills said.
“There’s a few younger players coming back into the team. Cal Gabriel’s back as well after missing the last game due to some other rep commitments.
“We’ve got a good mix of experience and youth in the team.”
Mills has found more consistency with both the bat and ball after admitting to a feast or famine run of innings at the start of the season.
“I’ve probably being a bit more consistent which has been nice, getting the team off to good starts for Norths anyway,” he said.
“It would be nice to kick on with them a bit more.
“I got to 50 the last few games and haven’t really gone on with them.
“I’ve been pretty happy with the way I’ve been going, the key is to just keep going and back myself and convert those 50s into bigger scores.”
Maitland v Newcastle C&S at Robin Oval starts at 10am on Sunday.
JOHN BULL SHIELD: L. Mills ©, R. Dent, W. Fort, M. Trappel, C. Gabriel, J. Moxey, D. Willis, D. Foster, J. Callinan, C. Smith, C. Bates, A. Seamer.
Maitland and Upper Hunter in top of table showdown
Maitland's second XI can gain a home final in the AGL Second Elevens Competition with victory against Upper Hunter at Scone on Sunday.
The two teams go into the clash with unblemished records from the opening two rounds and will make the final irrespective of the result Singleton and Cessnock.
The Maitland second XI is a talented mixture of grade and one-day competition players and has accounted for Singleton and Cessnock already in their preliminary rounds.
In the opening game they dismissed Singleton for 54 to record an eight-wicket win, with Tim Burton claiming 5-30 and Brent Dawes finishing with 3-17.
Maitland’s batsman posted an impressive 9/344 against Cessnock before dismissing them for 154 in the second round.
The leading run scorers from the Cessnock game openers Lachlan Vassella (99) and Danial Foster (84) and leading wicket taker Tim Baker (5-33) are unavailable for Sunday’s game, but Maitland’s captain Grant Garland still has plenty of talent to call upon.
Upper Hunter dismissed Cessnock in their first game for 79 to record an eight-wicket win in just 12 overs and then successfully defended a total of 190 against Singleton in round two.
AGL SECOND XI: G. Garland ©, S. Threlfo, L. Smith, G. Keppie Watson, J. Gabriel, R. Harrison, L. Eveleigh, L. Eveleigh, J. Sim, M. Thompson, B. Dawes, D. Stoneman