Sunderland RCA hope to defy the odds again when they host FA Vase holders Morpeth Town at Meadow Park tomorrow.
RCA sit in second place after a fine start to the season, with three wins out of four.
Martin Swales’ men are carrying a few injuries, including summer signing James Cassidy, who took a bad knock last weekend.
With Jonny Wightman still playing cricket and Steven Stewart suspended, RCA are a bit thin on the ground. Secretary Rob Jones said: “We are grinding out results at present, so credit to the lads, as we are a bit depleted.”
Chester-le-Street, without a point so far this season, have eight players out through injury and holidays ahead of their home game with South Shields.
Manager Colin Wake is looking to complete two signings, a midfielder and a striker, before the game to boost the squad.
Wake, whose men won promotion alongside Shields last term, said: “The lads now know how tough this season is going to be.
“We always knew it was going to be difficult, but we must remain optimistic and we look forward to the game.”
Shields continued their expensive recruitment programme with a double capture last night, with ex-Sunderland centre-back Ben Clark and former Falkirk forward Carl Finnigan ready to make their bows at Chester Moor Park.
Finnigan, from Jarrow, had been training with the Mariners since the start of pre-season, and has now received international clearance. He most recently played in Botswana with Township Rollers.
Clark, meanwhile, was Gateshead’s captain between 2010 and this summer, and has signed a dual registration deal with Shields, allowing him to continue with Heed while also playing for Shields.
Finnigan was pleased to get his deal done after a frustrating period waiting for clearance to come through.
He said: “It’s a relief that the international clearance has come through, because it has been frustrating having to watch from the sidelines in the first few games.
“That has just made me even more hungry to get started, though, and I can’t wait to play my first game.
“I felt really sharp at the end of pre-season and managed to score a few goals in the friendlies, so it has been unfortunate to have a few weeks without a game.
“Hopefully I can hit the ground running, though, and make a difference for the team.”
Shields are expected to be without Gavin Cogdon (hamstring), while Stephen Ramsey is a doubt.
Seaham Red Star, with just one win and three defeats from four games, travel to Boldon to face Jarrow Roofing in need of a boost.
Roofing boss Richie McLoughlin said: “We will need a good performance to push on from Tuesday night’s draw against Bishop Auckland and take the three points.
“Seaham have some good players, including some of our former players, and this game will test us, and them, but I expect a good attacking game from both teams.
“Both teams will look to get forward and we need to make sure that we’re solid all over the pitch.”
Roofing miss the injured Kris Hughes, while Kyran Whitehead (holiday) and Lee Maitland (suspension) are also absent. Corey Barnes returns after two games out.
Ryhope CW could not face a harder task than visiting defending champions Shildon, who have made a positive start to the season.
Gary Pearson’s side definItely miss skipper Nathan O’Neill and striker Joey Melvin, who are on holiday, and Kyle Davis is playing cricket.
There will be late fitness tests for Stephen Francis, Leon Ryan, Richie Paxton and Elliott Woods.
Washington, boosted by their FA Cup replay success at Pickering Town in midweek but looking for a first league victory, head south again for a tricky clash at Marske United.
Third-top Whitley Bay entertain sixth-placed neighbours North Shields, while fifth-bottom West Auckland host Dunston UTS and fourth-placed Consett visit Newton Aycliffe.
Ashington host Guisborough, with keeper Conor Grant and midfielder Scott Blandford back. However, Craig Scott, Ryan Bell and Ben Harmison are all ruled out, while James Harmison, Wayne Buchanan and Ben Christensen need fitness checks.