Washington are determined to regain winning ways when they lock horns with Seaham Red Star in tomorrow’s First Division clash at the Nissan Sports Complex.
The pair were promoted together last season.
Washington – who have taken the step-up in their stride – are fourth, while Red Star are more than holding their own, sitting just below halfway.
Mechanics boss Steven Hutchinson, whose side lost at West Auckland in midweek, said: “It’s a bit of a local derby. I know several of their players and manager Mark Collingwood, who’ll have them right up for the challenge.
“After losing last week, we need to bounce back to keep the pressure on the leading trio.”
The Mechanics welcome back Paul Wardle, but Michael Tait is away while Stephen Stewart and James Cassidy will need their fitness assessed before Hutchinson can finalise his side.
A boost for Red Star is the earlier-than-expected return of David Scorer, and he is named in a strong squad together with Danny Reay and youngster Kyle Bell.
Carl Thorp, though, has moved to the Midlands. “He is a good player and will be a big miss, but the club would like to thank him for his contribution during the last four seasons,” observed secretary David Copeland.
Following the disappointment of going out of the FA Vase, Sunderland RCA will renew their challenge for a top-six finish, but they could find it difficult against Newton Aycliffe at Meadow Park.
Manager Martin Swales said: “They are flying at present and one of the favourites for the title. We will have to match them for work-rate. They are hard workers and we’ll need to put a good shift in.”
Although Swales is able to call upon Liam Hatch, James Cook and Michael Charlton, he has James Armstrong, Ross McNab and Luke Proctor on the treatment table.
“I’ll wait until nearer kick-off and see how they are before naming my team sheet,” added Swales.
Durham City have been in free-fall for several weeks and are now third-bottom, just a point outside the relegation zone.
They face a challenging test when sixth-top Marske United visit Consett’s Belle View Stadium, especially as they are without a trio of players.
Moussa Bakhti is on trial with Accrington Stanley, while Mike King (hamstring) and Tom Gilbey (ankle) are injured.
Manager Chris Moore may include Dan Field, who played a couple of games before Christmas but has since been injured.
“We intend to get a result from the game. They won the league last year and are up there again, so we know we are in for a tough afternoon,” declared Moore.
Wearsider Ian Chandler is back as manager of Whitley Bay for a second spell.
After more than a decade at Hillheads, both as a player and manager, he left two years ago and had a spell in charge at Durham City.
“I got a call from chairman Paul McIlduff at the weekend and it didn’t take me long to say ‘yes’,” said Chandler.
“My task is to make sure we don’t get sucked into the relegation zone.
“Our advantage is that we have played far fewer games than any other side in the bottom half of the table – but, of course, we’ve got to convert matches into points.”
The Sunderland-born manager is looking to bring in at least two new players before tomorrow’s home derby clash with North Shields, who are unable to name Scott Blandford, Dylan Williamson or Kyle Oliver.
Jarrow Roofing boss Richie McLoughlin is another manager looking to boost his squad before visiting Newcastle Benfield.
He said: “Anth Myers is still a couple of weeks away from making a comeback and Paul Chow has only a 50-50 chance of playing tomorrow ,so I’m looking to make a couple of signings.”
Benfield are one place and a point behind Roofing and joint manager Paul Brayson is expecting a tough challenge.
“We’ll have to play well to match them,” claimed Brayson, who has Stephen Baptist struggling with a foot injury.
Leaders Shildon host Dunston UTS, who will need to overcome the bitter disappointment of going out of the FA Vase last weekend when they conceded two late goals.
Goalkeeper Liam Connell and Adam Wilkinson, who were both injured last week, definitely miss out, but manager Billy Irwin is able to consider Liam Thear, Steve Bowey, Mattie Fisher and Gary Shaw.
Bedlington Terriers, only off the bottom of the table by virtue of having a better goal difference than Norton and Stockton Ancients, host neighbours Ashington.
Manager Andy Ferrell’s only absentee is the injured John Pendlebury, but once again his opposite number, Steve Harmison, is forced into fielding a severely depleted side.
Scott Blandford, Dylan Williamson and Kyle Oliver miss out as the Colliers aim to make another step towards the top six.
The match of the day is between third-placed Morpeth Town and Guisborough Town, who are six points ahead of their rivals but have played six more games.
Morpeth – the only Northern League side through to the FA Vase quarter-finals, go without Mateusz Halambiec, David Hiftle and Chris Jewels, but Chris Reid, signed from Whitley Bay, is set to make his league debut.