Chester-le-Street will move into second place in the Second Division if they take one point or more against Billingham Town at Chester Moor Park tomorrow.
But manager Colin Wake has no fewer than nine players unavailable for various reasons, with Michael Hepplewhite, Mark Peck, Micky Allen, Ben Johnson, Danny Hepplewhite, Craig Marron, Jack Honour, Chris Stephenson and Aidan Ames all missing.
“We are absolutely stretched to say the least, but we’ll turn up with 11 players who will be ready to give their all,” said boss Wake.
“The prize up for grabs is to go second and that’s all the incentive we need.”
Second-top Billingham Synthonia are without a game, giving Chester the chance to leapfrog them.
Ryhope CW, who have four games in hand on Synthonia and Chester, are fourth before tackling a tough test away to Northallerton Town and boss Gary Pearson’s squad is strengthened with the return of experienced defender Leon Ryan, Simon Ord and Nathan O’Neill.
South Shields – despite being beaten at Heaton Stannington in midweek – lead the field by seven points, with games in hand, and are odds-on favourites to win at bottom-of-the-table Stokesley SC, who have leaked 136 goals on their way to almost certain relegation.
Fifth-top Team Northumbria are the other side in contention for promotion and they face a tricky Tyneside derby at Heaton Stannington, who are just three places below them.
Esh Winning and Birtley Town, battling to avoid the drop, have crucial home games against Darlington RA and Willington respectively.