RYHOPE CW are on course for their most successful season since the halcyon days of the early 1960s when they won the Wearside League championship four times in five years, writes MALCOLM PRATT.
The Wearsiders have already lifted the Monkwearmouth and Shipowners Cups and need just one point to be absolutely certain of being crowned champions.
Secretary Dougie Benison refused to accept that the title was in the bag following victory at Willington on Wednesday, but their goal difference is so superior to Easington Colliery – six points worse off with two games to go – that it is inconceivable that they will not end in pole position.
“I know we are 15 goals better off than Easington, who we play tomorrow, but until it is mathematically certain we’ve won, we are not celebrating,” said Benison.
Manager Martin Swales misses goalkeeper Neil Atkinson, who is replaced by Lenny French at Easington. David Anderson is also out, while Clayton Davis, Jonathan Davis and Kenny Linton face fitness checks. But Martin Metcalfe and 26-goal top scorer John Butler are available.
Easington need to finish runners-up to qualify for automatic promotion to the STL Northern League, but are now looking over their shoulder at New Marske.
The Colliers are five points ahead of the Seasiders, who have a game in hand, and Andy Colledge’s side will be going all out for victory against Ryhope.
Chris Hall and Chris Tarn are injured and Darren George and Anthony Ross doubtful, but goalkeeper Niki Lawson returns.
A late form surge has raised the hopes of New Marske that they can pip Easington for second place and their unchanged team starts as firm favourites at home to wooden-spoonists Coxhoe Athletic.
Elsewhere, Annfield Plain take on Wolviston, Prudhoe Town sign off at Windscale, Jarrow entertain Kirkbymoorside, and Stockton Town visit Cleator Moor.