WASHINGTON expect their biggest gate in years when they line-up against Whitley Bay in the Second Round of the Brooks Mileson Memorial Cup at the Nissan Sports Complex tonight.
And manger Stephen Hutchinson reckons it is a game they can win if they get the rub of the green.
He said: “We are the underdogs but we are playing some good football. It won’t be easy, that’s for sure. The lads though are up for it and will give it a right go.”
When he took over as manager the Newtowners were rock bottom of the Ebac Northern League Second Division with just one point out of a possible 30.
Now they are sixth from the basement, having won six and drawn two of their last 11 matches.
Hutchinson, who also managers Sunday League side Plains Farm, has brought in virtually a new squad and is relishing his new role.
“It’s been very good so far and winning 20 points from a possible 33 is a real achievement by the lads considering where the team was two months ago.
“This is a big night for the club and personally I’m really looking forward to it. I played with Whitley Bay boss Ian Chandler when we were both at Blyth Spartans so we’ll be renewing acquaintances,” added Hutchinson.
Although Paul Kane is still out injured, there is a chance that Paul Wardle will be added to the squad. He suffered an injury to his mouth against Jarrow Roofing and spent some days in hospital but is now almost fully recovered.
Whitley Bay are on a high after winning four games on the bounce but Chandler insists his side will take nothing for granted.
“They’re done well recently and I expect a really tough match. We are not going to win the First Division so progressing in the cup is important,” observed Chandler who will need to check on the fitness of Chris Reid, who had to be substituted on Saturday.
Phil Airey has scored in the last two games following his loan move from Blyth Spartans and is expected to start while Jarrett Rivers will be involved in at least some stage of the game. He made his comeback on Saturday and played the full 90 minutes when he was outstanding.
There’s a local derby at Heritage Park where Bishop Auckland and Durham City will lock horns. Both sides lost at the week-end but remain in the top seven with equal points although Bishops shade their opponents by virtue of having a better goals difference of only one.
It will be interesting to see how Billingham Town respond after their 11 goals hammering at Cleator Moor Celtic on Saturday. The Teessiders, who prop up Division One, have home advantage over Brandon United who are third from bottom in the Second Division.
Wilf Constantine, one-time Sunderland Nissan boss, has rung the changes since he took over at Billingham a couple of weeks ago. Eight players have left Bedford Terrace and 14 come in but the Town still only have three points from 20 games.
Ashington, fourth-top in Division One, should be too strong for Thornaby at Woodhorn Lane and South Shields also face a difficult challenge at Marske United.
So too do Darlington RA, who face the only unbeaten side in the two divisions when they travel to West Auckland Town.
Only one game is scheduled in the Second Division when Jarrow Roofing and Chester-le-Street meet at Boldon.
Roofing manager Richie McLoughlin reports that Dan Kirkup is working, injuries sideline Andy Appleby and Stuart Nicholson while Ian Graham is banned but Darren Reay comes into contention.
Chester-le-Street boss Colin Wake anticipates a really difficult game. He said: “Jarrow are one of the sides fancied for promotion but following Saturday’s performance at West Allotment Celtic we go there in good spirits. We’ll give it a real go and see what happens.”
The Cestrians miss Michael Roberts and Michael Graver but Craig Marron, Joe Hamblin and Michael Alsopp resume.