“Work in progress” is how manager Martin Swales might assess Sunderland RCA’s improvement this season – and especially in recent weeks.
The last six games have resulted in three wins, two draws and only one defeat, which is a far cry from what they experienced at this time last year.
Secretary Rob Jones explained: “When Martin joined us, we only had one point on the board and it was doom and gloom so he has really turned things around.”
Swales has steered the Wearsiders from rock-bottom to eighth-top ahead of tomorrow’s First Division game against newly-promoted Norton and Stockton Ancients at Meadow Park.
“Norton are fifth from the basement and it’s a game I’m looking to pick points up from. With a little bit of luck, we’ll maintain the good run we’ve put together recently,” declared Swales.
Although Liam Hatch returns, RCA go without Colin Larkin, Steve Callan, James Armstrong, Luke Richardson, Joe Hughes and Andrew Brown.
Seaham Red Star have managed just one win in nine games since gaining promotion from Division Two, but secretary David Copeland believes the tide could be turning.
He said: “The last few games have seen us put in better performances and we were very unlucky to concede a last-minute goal against Washington.”
Red Star visit Durham City missing Carl Thorpe, Sonny Andrews and Phil Gray, but there’s every chance that Harrison Scott will have recovered from tonsilitis to stake his claim for a place in the starting line-up.
Shildon, who opened up a four-point lead at the top of the table with victory over Dunston UTS in midweek, start favourites in the derby with Bishop Auckland.
Highly-rated Morpeth Town are second before hosting North Shields. Manager Nick Gray reports that Chris Jewels and Shaun Bell are on the injured list, but there’s a chance Michael Hall may be able to play.
With Washington on FA Cup duty and Guisborough without a game, Dunston UTS will move third if they beat second-bottom West Allotment Celtic.
Boss Billy Irwin thought his side deserved a point against Shildon in midweek and he’s looking to get back to winning ways. His only absentee will be Alex Francis.
It looks like being another season of struggle for Bedlington Terriers, who this week lost Liam Hudson and Stephen Little.
“I’m looking to recruit new players following a positive meeting with the chairman,” declared manager Andy Ferrell.
Jarrow Roofing are visitors to Doctor Pit Welfare Park, boosted by the return of Corey Barnes and Jordan Lavery, but Lewis Teasdale serves a one-match ban.
In Division Two, Chester le-Street are second, neck and neck with leaders Team Northumbria who enjoy a better goal difference.
The Cestrians go to Thornaby, while Team visit South Shields, who are fourth-top, equal on points with Northallerton.
Easington Collliery are in sixth place before hosting Brandon United and manager Paul Frame is expected to hand a debut to 18-year-old Peter Jones, signed from Seaham Red Star.
Bryan Norton and Shane O’Brien also come into his plans, but work commitments sideline Dale Spence, Ian Redman and Chris Pearson.
Manager Gary Pearson and his assistant Stuart Gooden are back on their old stamping ground when Ryhope CW meet Crook Town at the Sir Tom Cowie Millfield Ground.
The pair were in charge before taking up similar roles with Ryhope at the beginning of last season. The Wearsiders cannot call upon Chris Rooks, Martin Metcalfe or Elliott Woods.