SUNDERLAND RCA are expecting their biggest gate of the season when they meet championship contenders Spennymoor Town at Meadow Park tomorrow.
“We play them twice in ten days. A week on Monday they will be back in the semi-final of the Brooks Mileson Memorial Cup. These are two massive games for us and they are also crucial for Spennymoor,” said RCA chairman Owen Haley.
A massive blow to the Wearsiders is the absence of four key players.
Marc Ellison and Richard Logan are banned while Harrison Davies and Joe Fairish will not play again this season.
Manager Neil Hixon, who recently signed Matthew Tymon from West Auckland Town, welcomes the return of Scott Richards.
He could also add Liam Dunn and Luke Olabode who played in the youth team last season.
Spennymoor Town are favourites for the title and tomorrow they aim to extend a winning sequence to 10 games.
“There were a couple of good results during the week and it is now all down to ourselves,” said assistant manager Perry Briggs.
Although Callum Griffith is banned, Moors’ squad is strengthened with the return of Craig Hubbard, Craig Ruddy, Adam Johnston and goalkeeper Craig Turns.
Shildon and Consett lost ground in midweek. Shildon remain second and although only a couple of points adrift of Spennymoor, have played five games more than their rivals before they line up with South Shields at Dean Street.
Consett stay third, three points off the top but they have played two more fixtures than Moors.
The Steelmen desperately need to win at Billingham Synthonia who considerably enhanced their chances of avoiding the drop when they won at Shildon on Wednesday night.
A boost for Synners is the return of goalkeeper Josh Moody while Danny Earl, re-signed from Norton and Stockton Ancients, will be straight replacement for Colin Iley who has emigrated to Australia.
Newcastle Benfield have not given up hope of overtaking Spennymoor and at Bishop Auckland manager Paul Baker will have a 22-man squad to choose from as he returns to the club where he started his career before turning professional with Southampton.
At the other end of the table, Ryton are already relegated and Esh Winning need a miracle if they are to survive. Victory over Dunston UTS is vital while West Allotment Celtic, who currently occupy the last relegation place, meet Norton and Stockton Ancients with their First Division membership hanging in the balance.
In Division Two, Chester-le-Street are ending the season with a flourish but could find it difficult at Newton Aycliffe who, after winning promotion, now have their eyes set on the Championship.
The Cestrians, boosted at scoring five times during the week, cannot call upon injured pair Lee Chapman and Kyle Bird.
Two players who made their debut at Gillford Park, Marc Bladen and Callum Patton are expected to be named alongside the returning Stephen Halliday, Craig Marron, Tony Healer, Alex McKenzie and Kevin Dixon.
Stuart Sherwood’s side will need to contain Warren Byrne who has scored 40 of Aycliffe’s 104 goals.
Washington submitted their resignation to the League before the December 31 deadline but secretary Barry Spendley is confident it will withdrawn.
“We are still in talks with Nissan but expect to be back playing there next season,” reported Spendley. The Newtowners welcome back Graeme Liddle, Will Caris and Brett Turner against Thornaby.
Washington are fifth from the basement and Seaham Red Star are just below them before Kevin Turns takes his side down the A19 to Northallerton Town.
Gary David Anderson, Michael McEwan, Michael Turnbull, Colin Wright, Robbie Bird and Gary Anderson all resume. Paul McSween is sidelined and Carl Duggan will play in goal.
Darren Mowbray, brother of Middlesbrough manager Tony, is Northallerton’s leading marksmen with 20 goals.
Horden CW are in the bottom three and at Gillford Park manager Brian Honour intends to involve all 14 players.
The Colliers are without Simon Ward, Lee Armes and Andrew Richardson but Tom Gavin has recovered from a groin injury.