THE third promotion place in Division Two of the Ebac Northern League could be decided tomorrow – but the outcome may also not be known until May.
A win for Seaham Red Star in their last match of the campaign at Washington would mean that Jarrow Roofing would require three victories to be certain of going up, although two wins and a draw might be sufficient depending on the goal difference of the two teams.
Red Star, whose game at Washington is part of the Northern League’s groundhop weekend, kicks off at 2.15pm and manager Mark Collingwood is under no illusion as to the size of team’s task.
“It’s a massive match for us. Few people gave us a chance at the beginning of the year,but we have been in tremendous form. We are unbeaten since December, but Washington are also going great guns so it should be a cracking contest,” said Collingwood.
“All we can do is try and win and hope that Jarrow Roofing concede points in their last three fixtures.”
Seaham go to the Nissan Sports Complex with a full squad, including the returning Carl Thorp. “Nobody wants to miss this game,” quipped Collingwood.
Washington have come on leaps and bounds following a dismal start to the season and manager Stephen Hutchinson wants his side to finish on a high.
He said: “We are ninth and need to win as many points as possible from our last three matches not only to secure a top-half finish but also to qualify for next season’s FA Cup.
“I’ve set out for the lads to win our last three games, starting against Red Star tomorrow.”
The Newtowners, outstanding in recent months, meet Jarrow Roofing in the Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup final at Hebburn on Monday, May 5.
“If we can win the trophy and get into next season’s FA Cup, that would represent an excellent campaign for us,” added Hutchinson.
Tomorrow, Roofing are at home to Heaton Stannington in an 11am start at Boldon.
They are four points behind Red Star with two games in hand, but their rivals have a two-goal advantage on goal difference.
Manager Richie McLoughlin said: “I think it will be tight game. Heaton are a very good side and are just one place and five points below us.
“Both teams play good football, so it should be a cracking game and the fact that it’s groundhopping day should mean we have a big crowd.
“I don’t feel under any pressure. We know that if we win our remaining three matches we’ll go up so the ball is in our court.”
Although David Borley, Liam McBryde and Jamie Marshall come into his squad, McLoughlin cannot call upon Danny Carson or Stephen Graham.
Heaton have had an excellent first season after gaining promotion from the Northern Alliance. A boost to their chances is the return to form of prolific marksman Jonathan Wright who has netted more than 30 times. He is named in a full squad which also includes the returning Dean Deagle.
The third groundhop game is the local derby between Birtley Town and Chester-le-Street (6pm kick-off).
The hosts line up Owen Lancaster, Jake Nicholson and Mattie Lowery, while the Cestrians, aiming to end in the top half of the table, expect to name a strong line-up.
This time last year, Alnwick Town’s tenure was tottering on the brink, but they escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth.
Ahead of the visit of Whitehaven to St James’s Park, they are fifth from bottom and secretary Cyril Cox reckons exciting times are on the horizon.
He said: “On the field, (manager) Derek Attwell has already put in plans for the close season and behind the scenes discussion are ongoing about a move to a new ground.”
Tom Vickers is unavailable, as is the suspended Brian Murray, but Dale Kennedy may return depending on his fitness.
In Division One, the battle is on between Team Northumbria and Bedlington Terriers to avoid being relegated alongside Billingham Town and Hebburn Town.
Terriers are three points ahead of their rivals, who have a free day.
Bedlington travel to Newton Aycliffe, who are also in the bottom six, but a double blow to their chances of claiming three crucial points is the absence of Andy Leeson and Chris Gott.
West Auckland’s lingering championship hopes have all but ended, but they will keep up the fight at Dunston UTS who, according to much-respected secretary Bill Montague, are exhausted after playing 10 games in 21 days.
“Thankfully, we are coming to the end of the season and can see a little bit of light. We’ve only got one game next midweek – it will be sheer luxury,” quipped Montague.
Dunston go without Jonny Wightman, who is playing cricket for South Northumberland, while Dale Burrell, Chris Swails and Stephen Shaw are also missing and Ben Cattanach is a doubt.
Morpeth Town have Scott Swanston back to face Bishop Auckland, but an injury sidelines Paul Dunn.