Every game a cup final for Sunderland RCA

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EVERY game between now and the end of the season is a cup final for Sunderland RCA, who are embroiled in a battle for their Ebac Northern League First Division survival.

Following midweek results, they are now only a point ahead of Team Northumbria, who currently occupy the last relegation place.

Tomorrow, the Wearsiders are at Billingham Synthonia and manager David Lee admits that after losing to Team North on Monday night, it’s another big game.

“I’m looking for a positive reaction from the players. It’s pretty tight at the bottom and a win could move us up a couple of places,” observed Lee.

Steven Baynes returns but Lee has a fitness concern for Kyle Morris who is struggling with an ankle injury.

Billingham Synthonia are comfortably placed in ninth position and they too are looking to get back to winning ways.

Secretary Graham Craggs said: “We’ve lost our last two matches but before that were unbeaten in seven games. Hopefully, we can avoid a hat-trick of defeats.”

David Abel, who recently joined Billingham Town, has returned and will replace the suspended Tom Bott at the heart of the defence.

Andrew Burton, who went off with concussion in a recent game, is expected to be available.

With Billingham Town already relegated, Hebburn Town will almost certainly join them in Division Two next season.

Even so, manager Scott Oliver is looking for a good end to what has been a hugely disappointing season.

The South Tynesiders entertain Crook Town and Oliver is confident of picking up at least a point.

He said: “This is a good game for us and I know the lads will give it a real go.”

A boost is the return of Dan Smith, who has been sidelined for a couple of months but Mark Costello is unavailable.

Following their five-goal blast of Newton Aycliffe on Wednesday night, Durham City face sterner opposition in championship contenders West Auckland Town.

Boss Adam Furness is likely to have Craig Hindmarch available.

Team Northumbria are buoyant after defeating Sunderland RCA, are looking to make it back to back wins at the expense of Bishop Auckland.

“We certainly needed that win but we are still in the bottom three with much work still to be done,” said manager Paul Johnson, who has Ian Graham coming into contention.

Phil Lumsden, however, who was injured making his comeback in the previous game, is rated doubtful.

Newcastle Benfield, who defeated Spennymoor Town in the FA Carlsberg Vase last week, make an early return to the Brewery Field where their hosts will be keen to gain revenge and further their title hopes.

“They’ll want to bounce back. Their pride was probably dented a bit so it’s a massive test for us. It will be a completed different game and I know we will have to be at out best to stop them,” claimed manager Steve Bowey.

No doubt with an eye on next week’s Vase quarter-final tie against St Andrew’s in Leicestershire, Bowey could well rest himself while he will take no risks on Andrew Dugdale, Stuart Elliott, Paul Talbot or Richie Lauder.

Mid-table Dunston UTS also have their eyes fixed on the Vase and at Bedlington Terriers hope to field a much stronger side than the one which surpassingly lost to Whitehaven on Wednesday night.

“We were really down to the bare bones. Full credit to Whitehaven but we were awful. Last Saturday we were superb in the Vase so it was definably a case of after the Lord Mayors Show” said secretary Bill Montague who reports that goalkeeper Liam Connell and captain Ben Cattanach definitely resume.