FOLLOWING back to back wins, Chester-le-Street manager Stuart Sherwood is hoping for a hat-trick against Whickham at The Glebe tomorrow.
He said: “I thought we played particularly well last weekend and the lads should be confident, but it won’t be easy at Whickham who are in the top six challenging for promotion.
“I realise we are in the bottom half of the table but only one of the 12 sides above us has played fewer games and we have as many as seven games in hand on one side.
“I realise it is better to have points in the bag, but with so many games still to play we have the chance to move significantly up the table – but it’s down to us.”
Goalkeeper Kyle Barlow and Kyle Bird will need fitness tests.
Whickham are riding high and, although sixth, are equal on points with the two sides immediately above them.
Manager Terry Ritson welcomes back from suspension Paul Kavanagh but will need to assess the fitness of Craig Luke, Scott Palmer and Adam Wilkinson.
Horden CW will again be considerably under strength at home to in-form Hebburn Town, who have shot up the table in recent weeks.
“Hebburn are in great form and it’s going to be a real test for my young team. We’re stretched to the limit at present but we’ll keep battling away,” insisted boss Brian Honour, who cannot name Jack Sharples, Andrew Richardson, Chris Rookes, Tom Gavin or Adam Croft.
Hebburn’s form has taken off since the former West Allotment Celtic manager Paul Bennett took over. They were third bottom but are now in the top half of the table after winning five of their last eight games.
Colin McKenzie resumes but goalkeeper Jak Wells and Ben Miley are definite absentees.
Seaham Red Star could also find the going difficult against North Shields at the Daren Persson Stadium. The Robins have won 11 and drawn three of their last 14 games and haven’t tasted defeat since mid-September.
“It’s going to be hard but I’ve got Gary Anderson and Michael McEwan returning, although Neil Gough has moved back to London,” said manager Kevin Turns, who will also include newcomers from Durham City Simon Todd and Johnny Monaghan.
Former Dunston UTS striker Michael Laws is injured and the Robins, now third from top following an indifferent start to the season, also have defenders Steven Robinson and Martin Graham on the injured list.
SUNDERLAND RCA, buoyed at their winning performance against Dunston UTS in midweek, take on first division leaders Consett at Belle Vue Park.
“We fully deserved to beat Dunston, who are a good side but we more than matched them on the night,” enthused manager Neil Hixon, who this week signed midfielder Michael Doulton from Marske United.
Keith Graydon will need a check on his hamstring injury while Marc Ellison is a definitely non-starter.
Consett manager Barry Lindoe watched RCA at Dunston and accepts his side have a fight on his hands.
“They’ve come good but I expect to have 20 players available which will give me a selection headache – but one which is nice to have,” said Lindoe, who expect Jonjo Dickman and Mark Eccles to be declared fit.
Another boost is that international clearance has been obtained for Richard Slaughter, who was playing in America.
Spennymoor Town are chasing Consett and following their midweek success are just five points off the leaders with two games in hand, going into the clash at third-bottom Stokesley.
Third-placed Shildon line up at home to Penrith, while Newcastle Benfield take on Bedlington Terriers in a top seven meeting.
Jarrow Roofing manager Richie McLoughlin this week signed Ben Starford from Ryton and he goes straight into the squad for the visit of Whitey Bay. Craig Nelson, Chris Hughes and Michael Rodenby are however ruled out through injuries.