Northern League: RCA rocked for tough test at relegation battlers

Seaham Red Star (stripes) attack in last week's 2-2 draw with Shildon. Red Star are without a game this weekend. Picture by Tim Richardson.
Seaham Red Star (stripes) attack in last week's 2-2 draw with Shildon. Red Star are without a game this weekend. Picture by Tim Richardson.
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Sunderland RCA manager Martin Swales has major selection problems for tomorrow’s First Division clash against Newcastle Benfield at Sam Smith’s Park.

Five players are definitely out and the number will rise to six should Michael Charlton, who has been sidelined for three weeks, fail a fitness test.

Swales, whose side lost 3-2 at lowly Norton in midweek, said: “I have Jack Pounder, Nathan Cummings, Ross McNab, Andrew Hunter and Andrew Brown out for various reasons, so it’s not going to be an easy 90 minutes.

“They are still in a relegation scrap. It will be a tough game and we will need to put up a good fight.”

Unlike their Tyneside hosts, RCA are sitting comfortably in mid-table with only pride to play for in their remaining 14 games.

Washington are looking to finish in the top six, but they missed the chance to go third when they were surprisingly beaten by West Auckland in midweek.

On-form Bishop Auckland – with seven wins, a draw and a defeat in their last nine matches – provide the opposition at the Nissan Sports Complex and boss Steve Hutchinson is under no illusion as to the size of the task.

He said: “They beat us last week at their place, but we had a man sent off. It’s important we keep 11 players on the pitch if we are to get one back on them.”

Influential captain Mark Davison is ruled out and a doubt surrounds goalkeeper Jonathan Carmichael, who picked up a knock in the warm-up on Tuesday night.

Fixtures do not come much tougher for Jarrow Roofing than impressive leaders Shildon, who have scored more goals and conceded fewer than any other side.

Roofing – too near the bottom for comfort – have boosted their squad with the signing of Michael Laws from Whitley Bay and Robbie Williamson, who has come in from Crook Town.

The pair are expected to feature against the Railwaymen at Boldon, as are Corey Barnes and James Fairley, who have been added to the squad.

Manager Richie McLoughlin, though, will need to check the fitness of Kerry Hedley and Liam Atkin before finalising his squad.

Dunston UTS’s form has dipped since they were knocked out of the FA Vase, with just two wins in nine games, and they could well slip into the bottom half of the table by tomorrow night.

They face third-top Guisborough Town and once again manager Billy Irwin misses several players through injury.

Dale Burrell, Dan Smith, Gary Shaw and Dan Halliday are definitely out and Malcolm Morien and Stephen Bowey are considered doubtful.

Two sides are riding on the crest of a wave. Morpeth Town reached the Vase final last weekend, but manager Nick Gray wants to put May’s visit to Wembley on the back burner and concentrate on their challenge for the championship.

“I’m looking for three points out of Penrith to allow us to step up our league campaign, but, unfortunately, I’ll be minus Mateusz Halambiec, Chris Jewels and Lee McAndrew, who is getting married,” said Gray.

Ashington are also on a high after putting 10 goals past Newton Aycliffe on Tuesday.

Boss Steve Harmison will be aiming for another goal fest against North Shields and the bad news for the Robins is that scoring predator Andrew Johnson, Lee Scott and Damien Stevens, who shared eight goals against Aycliffe, will again spearhead the attack.