armstrong’s glad to be back in top flight

Ross Wilkinson of Durham City (left) takes on Darlington 1883 in pre-season. City host West Allotment Celtic in their Northern League opener tomorrow

Ross Wilkinson of Durham City (left) takes on Darlington 1883 in pre-season. City host West Allotment Celtic in their Northern League opener tomorrow

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It’s all systems go for Washington, who cannot wait to get started against Ashington at the Nissan Sports Complex tomorrow (3pm kick-off).

Back in 2008, the Mechanics were relegated with 41 points and chairman Derek Armstrong admits it has been a long, hard slog to get back into the top flight.

“Everybody has had to work hard, but it is a challenge we relish,” he said.

“There are excellent facilities at Nissan and, now we are able to offer a higher quality of football, I’m hoping for better gates.

“Manager Steven Hutchinson has added experience to the squad, bringing in John Butler (Bishop Auckland), Stephen Stewart (Durham City) and Josh Carmichael and Ross Preston, who were with Sunderland RCA.”

“We retained most of last season’s squad and hopefully we can get off to a winning start,” enthused Armstrong, who together with secretary Barry Spendley, president Tom Boylen and Bob Goodwin have chalked up almost 150 years service to the club.

Ashington include newcomers Liam Atkin, Mattie Grieve, Gareth Williams, Michael Bell, Scott Blandford, Jonathyn Quinn and Chris Moore, but skipper Andrew Johnson is suspended.

Sunderland RCA host Consett and manager Martin Swales has signed several players with the aim of improving on a seventh-bottom finish last time.

Liam Hatch, from Darlington 1883, is the most high- profile signing, but Callum Hope, Reece Noble and Jordan Harkess (Durham City), together with Luke Proctor, Chris Scott, Adam Drysdale, Chris Horsley and Martin Thompson, will undoubtedly add depth to the squad.

Durham City, aiming to improve on last season’s mid-table finish, entertain West Allotment Celtic at New Ferens Park.

West only just missed out on relegation and have a new manager in Jon McDonald, who replaces Paul Stoneman.

Champions Marske United go to Newton Aycliffe and runners-up Shildon start at Newcastle Benfield, whose manager, Steve Bowey, has kept changes to a minimum.

“We had a great end to last season and I’m hoping to start where we finished. I now believe we are capable of beating any side,” enthused Bowey.

In Division Two, it’s very much as you were for Chester-le-Street, who start with the visit of Stokesley SC to Chester Moor Park.

Glen Hargrave has left and manager Colin Wake’s only signing is Lee Mole. He is one of a number of players absent tomorrow, with Arran Reynolds, Lee McGill, Ben Johnson, Kevin Dixon and Tom Wray also ruled out.

Ryhope CW go to Esh Winning, with Simon Ord their only new player, but the good news for manager Gary Pearson is that goalkeeper Chris Rookes is fit after missing the second half of last season.

Easington Colliery are back in the league and manager Paul Frame and assistant Craig Parkinson have boosted the squad which finished second in the Wearside League.

Aidan Goodey, Aidan Haywood, Liam Gill, Lewis Herron, James Parkinson, John Bewick, Adam Platts and Richie Carr are the new signings. “We are ready to mix it with the big boys and cannot wait to get into action” enthused Parkinson, whose side host Whickham tomorrow.