Northern League: RCA hoping for climb to third-place, but wary of reviving West Auckland

Seaham Red Star's Robbie Bird (left) takes on Maltby Main's Joe Davies in the FA Vase last week. Picture by Tom Banks

Seaham Red Star's Robbie Bird (left) takes on Maltby Main's Joe Davies in the FA Vase last week. Picture by Tom Banks

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A year ago, Sunderland RCA were in the First Division wilderness.

But such has been the improvement, that a win tomorrow could see the Meadow Park men move into third place.

Manager Martin Swales has certainly turned around the Wearsiders’ fortunes during the 12 months he’s been in charge and he is looking to continue the revival at the expense of lowly West Auckland at Darlington Road.

Perhaps though, he’ll be wary after West won for only the third time last Saturday to move off the bottom of the table.

“We are on a high at present, especially after reaching the third round of the FA Carlsberg Vase, but it looks as if West have improved a bit,” observed secretary Rob Jones.

Swales has James Talbot, on loan from Sunderland, back in goal after he was on international duty with Ireland last weekend. There’s a chance that Wayne Buchanan will come through a fitness test on his ankle, but definitely out is captain Clayton Davis.

Seaham Red Star celebrated last weekend, reaching the third round of the Vase for the first time in their history, but they came down to earth with a bump on Tuesday, losing 4-0 to rejuvenated Newcastle Benfield.

Manager Mark Collingwood will be looking for a reaction at the expense of Ashington at Woodhorn Lane, but neither David Scorer nor Liam McBryde can play.

Lee Kerr was injured during the midweek fixture but is hopeful of coming through a fitness check, as is Harrison Scott, who returned to action on Tuesday when he came off the bench.

There hasn’t been a time this season when Ashington boss Steve Harmison has been able to name a full squad – and tomorrow is no different with James Taylor, Scott Blandford and his brother, James, on the treatment table .

After winning for the first time in six games last weekend, Washington are hopeful of a good result going into their home fixture with Whitley Bay.

“We went through a bad spell, but hopefully last week’s performance and result will be a turning point. We need to build up a bit of momentum,” said manager Steven Hutchinson, who includes former Durham City player Conor Okus.

Whitley Bay are in the unaccustomed position of fourth-bottom spot, but have played considerably fewer games than any other side.

Boss Paddy Atkinson, whose CV boasts extensive experience with a number of clubs, reckons the Seahorses need to change their style of play to suit the heavy winter pitches.

“We found it difficult at Dunston UTS, when the ball didn’t move freely, and we require a new strategy,” declared Atkinson, who has Richard Flynn and Phil Lumsden in his squad.

Leaders Morpeth Town travel to Guisborough in a top-four clash and manager Nicky Gray’s only concern is for Jordan Fry’s knee injury.

Second-top Shildon could find it difficult against Newton Aycliffe and third-placed Dunston UTS start favourites against second-bottom Norton and Stockton Ancients.

Adam Wilkinson has completed a ban and Steve Bowey, the former Newcastle Benfield manager, is also available after being ineligible last weekend.

Norton’s chances of escaping the drop have been boosted with the news that Thibault Charmey has returned from a spell with Whitby Town.

“We are missing a goal-scorer and Thibault knows where the goal lies. Recently, we lost by the only goal to Dunston so we are looking for revenge,” said chairman Michael Mulligan.

Jarrow Roofing have transferred Keiran Wrightson to Newcastle Benfield and Shaun Vipond is banned for the visit of Consett, who welcome the inclusion of Jake Fowler and Joe Brand.

Daniel Craggs misses out for the Steelmen.

Former Durham City player Brad Brooking is pencilled in to make his North Shields debut, but Wembley Vase heroes Denver Morris, Adam Forster, John Grey and Dean Holmes are all injured for the attractive home fixture against Marske United.