Hixon eager for cup progress

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MANAGER Neil Hixon wants to secure FA Cup progress in tonight’s extra preliminary round replay at home to Ashington (7.30pm), writes MALCOLM PRATT.

The Wearsiders, down to 10 men, snatched a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser on Saturday. Now the challenge is to finish the job, clinching a trip to Marske United.

Hixon said: “The lads worked their socks off. It was sheer grit and determination and they were rewarded with the sensational goal from our keeper, Neal Atkinson.

“Overall, it was a real tussle, but I thought we fully deserved a second chance and we’ve got to make it count tonight.”

With Andy Appleby suspended, the Wearsiders are forced into making at least one change.

Chris Youlden looks the obvious replacement. He has been on trial with a Maltese Premier League club, but Hixon reports that the offer was not acceptable and he will not be leaving Meadow Park.

Steve Jones is also back tonight and Hixon must decide whether to accommodate the right-back or make just one change to his starting line-up.

Ashington could well be unchanged, although Josh Gray, unavailable at the weekend, could come into boss Gary Middleton’s plans.

Birtley Town entertain North Shields, with manager Scott Oliver saying he would not be surprised if the tie goes to penalties.

“The last five meetings have ended in draws,” said Oliver. “We shared two goals on Saturday and I think there will be few goals tonight. Judging by the results between us in the last two seasons, it might take spot kicks to settle the result.”

Although cricketer Kevin Dixon returns for Birtley, Oliver awaits news on the availability of Scott Garrett and James Allsopp.

Chester-le-Street visit Billingham Town in their replay.