MANAGER Scott Oliver reckons that Birtley Town’s performance in holding in-form North Shields to a draw on Saturday was the best since he took over at the STL Northern League Second Division club.
He said: “The result was fair to both teams and the game a great advert for local football.
“They had gone 17 games without losing so it was a huge test for my side but I thought we came through in flying colours.
“We are in the top 10 which is a great achievement for a club which doesn’t pay a penny to anyone.
“Every week I get enquiries for this player or that player but the lads have remained loyal and if we stick together, we can only get better.”
Tonight, Birtley host Chester-le-Street in a local derby and Oliver will have a full squad available.
Leading scorer Martin Roper, with 20 goals during his first season in the Northern League, and right back Stuart Anderson, both return.
Chester-le-Street are equal on points with their rivals but one place ahead because of a better goals difference.
Recent signings David Halliday (Seaham Red Star) and Kevin Dixon, transferred from Esh Winning, are likely to start while Ben Johnson and Jordan Fraser also come into the plans of boss Stuart Sherwood.
The Cestrians, meanwhile, have transfer listed strikers Liam McBryde and Gary Shields. Any interested club should contact Sherwood on 07950 629 972 or chairman Joe Burlison on 0191 388 4607.
No manager has been busier on the transfer front than Horden CW’s Brian Honour but four of the eight players he has brought in during the last week cannot play tonight at Morpeth Town.
Brothers David and Stephen Manson, who made the short move from Wearside League club Hartlepool, Stephen Oakley (Guisborough Town) and the former Northern League player Kevin Dixon, who was unattached, are ruled out.
Goalkeeper Chris Sawyer from Willington, Simon Ord (Bishop Auckland), Stuart Ord (Coxhoe United) and Michael Joseph, who was playing local football in Middlesbrough, are pencilled into the squad, together with the returning Lee Armes.
The Colliers, though, cannot name Adam Croft or Ashley Corker as Honour attempts to arrest an eight-match losing sequence.
In Division One, Sunderland RCA had set their sights on taking nine points from three games but their aspirations ended when the fixture at Esh Winning was called off on Saturday.
The Wearsiders are at bottom-of-the-table Ryton who have managed just three points all season and after conceding seven goals at the week-end, have leaked 121 in 28 games.
Manager Neil Hixon definitely misses Chris Smith with a thigh injury and will need to check on the fitness of Marc Ellison, who is suffering with a hamstring problem.
The results of two games will have a bearing on the top of the table.
Spennymoor Town will regain the leadership if they win at Dunston UTS while Whitley Bay, who have applied for promotion, will go fourth if they see off South Shields at Filtrona Park.