Northern League: Mega clash for relegation-threatened Durham City

Seaham Red Star (red/white) take on West Auckland last week. Picture by Kevin Brady
Seaham Red Star (red/white) take on West Auckland last week. Picture by Kevin Brady
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It is not exactly the “last chance saloon” for Durham City, but defeat in tomorrow’s bottom-five clash against Newcastle Benfield at Consett could hasten their relegation to the Second Division.

The Citizens have endured a torrid season on and off the field and are precariously placed in second-bottom spot, nine points adrift of safety with seven games to go - and having played a match more than fourth-bottom West Auckland.

Manager Chris Moore insists that his men must start putting points on the board – beginning with Benfield.

He said: “They are fifth-from-bottom, nine points better off than ourselves and we’ve played one game less so it’s absolutely essential, at the very least, that we don’t lose.”

A big blow to Durham’s chances is the unavailability of Dan Fields, Tom Golledge, Ross Stead and Michael King. Moore’s absentee list will rise to six should Nathan Lawrence and Jack Carr also be ruled out.

Benfield joint manager Paul Brayson can’t understand why City are so near the bottom, saying: “They’ve got some good players and are a better team than their position suggests.

“They are used to playing on Consett’s 3G pitch and they’ll be fighting for their lives, so it’s going to be hard. Mathematically, we are not out of the woods, so I’ll be reminding my squad that we also need the points.”

Norton and Stockton Ancients probably need to win their last four games, starting at West Auckland, to have any chance of surviving.

Bedlington Terriers occupy the third relegation spot going into their game at Washington.

Unlike their opponents, the Mechanics are riding high and manager Steve Hutchinson is aiming for a top-six finish.

“It would be a magnificent achievement during our first season in the top flight so there’ll be no let-up tomorrow,” he said. “Three points would keep us in contention and. with only Conor Okus ruled out, I’m hopeful.”

Sunderland RCA have lost their way recently and are now in the bottom half before entertaining FA Vase finalists Morpeth Town.

“It’s a massive challenge, with Morpeth doing so well,” said boss Martin Swales.

“We’ve got to try and cut out silly mistakes which have led to conceding goals, but Morpeth are one of the leading scorers, so we’ll need to tighten up at the back.”

Colin Larkin, Jack Pounder, Chris Burn and Jordan Harkess are all unavailable, but Swales is able to include Liam Hatch, Joe Hughes and James Armstrong.

Seaham Red Star travel to sixth-bottom West Allotment Celtic, who look relatively secure but are not exactly safe from the threat of relegation.

It will be Mark Collingwood’s 200th game in charge of Star. Coincidentally, his first match was against Allotment in 2012.

Darren Reay and David Paul come in and there’s a good chance that Daryl Donnelly will start after recovering from a facial injury.

Whitley Bay boss Ian Chandler reckons his side need six points to be absolutely certain of playing in Division One next season.

“It will depend on how other sides do, but two wins will be sufficient no matter what results are elsewhere,” he said.

“Hopefully, we can get one of those under our belts against Consett at Hillheads.

“They beat us by the odd goal when I returned as manager, but I think we are a better team now as evidenced by the fact that recently we’ve beaten top-six sides Bishop Auckland and Washington.”

Shildon – now firm favourites to clinch the championship, can take another step towards their goal by defeating Penrith at Dean Street.

Gary Forrest’s side have taken 16 points from the last six games, scoring 21 goals in the process.

Marske United are second but trail the leaders by 22 points before visiting Guisborough Town. Although the Seasiders have four games in hand on Shildon, they are now very much outsiders to retain the title they won on the final day of last season.

Only pride is at stake when Jarrow Roofing host North Shields at Boldon.

Alex White and Jamie Marshall are named by Roofing boss Richie McLoughlin, who is aiming to avenge the five-goal defeat suffered in the reverse fixture.

The Robins could be without goalkeeper Shaun McCafferty, but Chris Bannon has recovered from injury and will deputise if necessary.

Dunston UTS manager Billy Irwin misses Dan Smith and Dale Burrell, both of whom could miss the remaining games, at home to Newton Aycliffe

Goalkeeper Andy Clark and Gary Shaw come in, but Irwin will need to assess the fitness of Luke Gilhespy and Steve Bowey before finalising his side.