SUNDERLAND RCA manager Neil Hixon says his side has overcome a loss of form and is confident they can continue to challenge for the STL Northern League Championship, writes Malcolm Pratt.
He said: “We had a little blip but we were back to our best in our last game.
“We’ve had a fortnight’s break and the lads are really geared up for tomorrow’s game against Norton and Stockton Ancients at Meadow Park.
“Recently, results have gone our way and we are only six points behind leaders West Auckland with a game in hand.”
Hixon, still looking to strengthen his squad, misses Ian Davison and Ritchie Paxton but otherwise has a strong squad available.
Norton, who have slipped down the table, go without suspended pair Dale Mulligan and Leon Scott. In addition, they have injury concerns for David Alderson and Craig Bishop.
Leaders West Auckland lost ground in the title race when beaten by third top Spennymoor Town on Wednesday night. West, though, appear to have a great chance at Stokesley SC who have managed only one point in 21 games during which they conceded 100 goals.
Dunston UTS are third, just a point behind the leaders, ahead of their game with South Shields at Filtrona Park.
In the continued absence of goalkeeper Liam Connell, Josh Carmichael will deputise against his former club. UTS boss Billy Irwin expects Steven Pickering to play.
South Shields have improved considerably in recent weeks and are now ninth, 10 points outside the relegation zone.
Manager Jon King though is not getting carried away although he believes a top 10 finish is a realistic aim.
He said: “We’ve come on leaps and bounds. Training is going very well and we have a better shape and structure in our games.
“There is a long way to go, but we have the nucleus of a good side. I firmly believe it’s now onwards and upwards following an indifferent start to the season.”
Tony Coe, Michael Rodenby, Shaun Sweeney and Simon Fitzpatrick all come into contention for places in the starting line-up.
Spennymoor Town, champions in the last two seasons, face a potentially difficult task against Newton Aycliffe at The Brewery Field. The visitors have moved into sixth place only two points behind Jason Ainsley’s side.
Ashington are mid-table but have several games in hand on all the sides above them.
The Colliers are buoyant after routing Bishop Auckland earlier in the week and at home to Penrith are boosted with the availability of defender Mattie Grieve and midfielder Dean Deagle.
Billingham Synthonia name Jamie Blyth, who was in ineligible for last week’s FA Carlsberg Vase tie when they take on Tow Law. David Able, though, is suspended and it’s almost certain a knee injury will sideline Nathan Jameson.