HORDEN CW and Seaham Red Star will battle it out for crucial Second Division points at Welfare Park tomorrow.
The pair are uncomfortably placed in the bottom four with Red Star just two points and one place better off than their neighbours.
“It’s a crucial game for both teams. Seaham have two games in hand on us, so it’s important we take something from the match,” said Colliers’ manager Brian Honour.
The former Hartlepool player is set to hand a debut to Adam Burnicle, signed from Jarrow Roofing, and a further boost is the availability of Andrew Richardson, who has been out for nearly two months with a groin injury.
Red Star boss Kevin Turns reckons it is a massive derby game. He said: “It’s a must-win match and if we come out on top there it will give us a bit of daylight in our fight to avoid ending in the bottom two.”
A double blow to Turns is the absence through suspension of Chris McCabe and Anthony Laidler, but he is hopeful that Colin Wright and Gary Anderson will be passed fit.
Washington are also too near the bottom for comfort and for the long journey to Gillford Park manager Dave Smith welcomes the return of Will Caris and Graeme Liddle but Alan Oliver is rates doubtful.
Birtley Town know what it’s all about battling against relegation but after ending bottom last season they have high hopes of finishing at least in eighth position.
They start favourites at Morpeth Town who have managed just one win in 27 games during which they conceded no fewer then 105 goals.
Chester-le-Street are comfortably placed just above the half-way mark and follow the midweek draw at Thornaby, manager Stuart Sherwood delays announcing his line-up.
In Division One, Sunderland RCA will be hoping to bounce back to form after taking just one point from the last four games.
The Wearsiders, though, could find it difficult at home to Norton and Stockton Ancients, who hit Jarrow Roofing for six on Wednesday night.
“We’ll have to tighten up defensively. Until recently we looked solid at the back but all of a sudden we’ve been leaking soft goals,” observed manager Neil Hixon.
Although Wayne Henderson returns, Hixon still cannot call upon Scott Richards.
The match of the day is between top-four sides Whitley Bay and Consett at Hillheads.
Whitley, the League’s last survivor in the FA Carlsberg Vase, have won their last 12 games and expect a crowd of at least 600.
Manager Ian Chandler cannot name Chris Fawcett, David Pounder, Callum Anderson or Glen Taylor but is delighted to have a fully fit David Coulson raring to go.
Consett are third, nine points ahead of Whitley Bay who have two games in hand.
“It’s very tight at the top and the outcome of tomorrow’s game will be vital for both sides,” said manager Kenny Lindoe, who watched the Seahorses in action at Dunston UTS on Tuesday night.
Lindoe expects having a full squad available including Jonjo Dickman and Gavin Ross.
Shildon, the first side to reach 100 goals, lead the table but have a free day which will give Spennymoor Town the chance to close the gap to a single point.
Moors start firm favourites at second bottom Esh Winning even though manager Jason Ainsley cannot call upon Craig Ruddy or Gavin Cogden.
Newcastle Benfield are also in the promotion frame and at Stokesley miss the suspended Shaun Bell. Boss Paul Baker awaits news on the fitness of Phil Lumsden who has been sidelined for a few weeks.
Ryton look certain to be relegated and currently West Allotment Celtic are also in the bottom three alongside Esh Winning.
Following three consecutive victories, Celtic have lost their last two games and could again find it difficult at home to Bedlington Terriers even though experienced manager Tom Wade can name James Novak, Kevin Hughes, Matthew Wade and Martin Roper.
Terriers will also field a much stronger line up with Stuart Elliott, Ali Henderson and Colin Morton coming into contention.