SEAHAM Red Star are “over the moon” going into tonight’s game with Washington comfortably placed in the Ebac Northern League Second Division.
Last season they struggled against relegation and ended just a point outside the drop zone, but they are now up to mid-table.
“Nobody is getting carried away, but we have a stronger side now with a bit more experience.
“We are no longer looking over our shoulders, but at the top half of the table.
“A win tonight could lift us into the top six which would be a fantastic achievement,” said secretary and former manager Kevin Turns.
Red Star though have suffered a massive blow with the news that Kevin Gordon will be sidelined for up to three months with a broken collar bone.
Also missing tonight is goalkeeper Shaun Newbrook who is banned and his place will be taken by Paul McSween.
Michael Pattison last night moved to Chester-le-Street and Craig Watson has been placed on the transfer list, but there is some good news for manager Mark Collingwood with the return of captain Carl Thorpe.
Washington gained a welcome win at the weekend to arrest a disappointing sequence of results, but manager Richie Latimer is forced into making changes.
Lee Hamilton, Mark Covell, Liam Hall, Mark Patterson and Chris Tate are definite non-starters and the number of absentees will rise to seven should Nicky Evans and Lee Donnelly fail fitness tests.
The Newtowners were so short of players on Saturday that Latimer had to play the entire 90 minutes at Thornaby.
“It was the first time in two seasons that I turned out for the full match, but thank goodness I will not be needed tonight,” exclaimed Latimer.
Washington welcome the return of several players, including Michael Turner and Ross Atkinson.
Michael Pattison will make his Chester-le-Street debut at Whickham, who will aim for a quick double after defeating the Cestrians 2-1 a couple of weeks ago.
Manager Colin Wake also adds Michael Hepplewhite, Adam Strong and Michael Robson to the squad held to a draw by West Allotment Celtic on Saturday.
Birtley Town made an encouraging start to the campaign but have slipped to third bottom ahead of the visit from basement side Ryton and Crawcrook Albion.
H West Auckland will fly the flag on behalf of the NL in the Second Qualifying Round of the FA Cup when they go to Harrogate Town in a replay. The sides shared four goals at Dean Street on Saturday.