Sunderland West End face a huge challenge – almost certainly the biggest in their history – when they meet a Gateshead XI in the first round of the Durham Challenge Cup at Quarry View tomorrow.
And manager Anth Nelson is hoping that goalkeeper Neal Bussey retains the superb form he has shown in recent weeks.
“Neal has been absolutely brilliant and has kept three clean sheets in the last four games. We’ll certainly need him to be in top form tomorrow,” said Nelson, who cannot call upon suspended pair Keiron Martin and Stephen Lax.
Similarly, Wolviston are very much the underdogs even though they too have home advantage over Northern League Consett.
“It’s our toughest test of the season and we are very much the underdogs,” observed secretary Keith Simpson.
A double boost for Wolviston is the return of Aidan Cannon and Junior Masandi.
Leaders Stockton Town are without a fixture and, with West End on cup duty, Redcar Athletic and Hartlepool have the chance to strengthen their challenge for the championship.
Redcar travel to Leam Rangers and although they’ve lost leading scorer Adam Preston to Marske United, will still be a difficult side to beat.
Manager Steve Connelly, who expects Andy Jennings and Chris Bivens to be available, is working on bringing in an experienced marksman.
Leam have dropped into the bottom half and they are forced to go without suspended defender Leon Kane.
Chris Lowther is expected to resume after missing the last three games, but Craig Williams is still struggling with an ankle injury.
Hartlepool have moved into fourth place on the back of some encouraging performances recently and, at Jarrow, they welcome the return of Sam Cook and Callum Sweeney.
It’s a case of two in and two out for Jarrow. Neither Nick Payne nor goalkeeper Gary Slater can play, but Darren Morton and Karl Donnelly come into the reckoning.
Murton, who have taken just one point from 17 games, are in North West Durham for their fixture with Anfield Plain, who expect to field their first-choice line-up.
Silksworth CW manager Sean Butler has Michael McVay, Rob Hall and Joe Clayton unavailable at home to Spennymoor Town Reserves, but Lewis Turnbull, Michael Jacob, Alan Golightly, and keeper Anthony Lowerson, on a month’s loan from Ryhope CW, can play.
Two players who were forced off in last Saturday’s game, Mark Kelly and Rhys Brown, will face fitness tests.
Spennymoor boss Carl Beasley includes Kai Willis and Chris Baxter.
He will have a full squad at his disposal if Mitchell McKenna is passed fit.
Ashbrooke Belford House are in North Yorkshire to face Richmond Town and joint manager Asa Dobbing reports that Michael Young is banned and Dillon Holden is struggling with a recurrence of a knee injury.
Richmond have no selection worries with Connor Lyon, Michael Gunnell, Gary Hutchinsion and goalkeeper Karl Latcham named in a full pool of players.
Seaham Red Star Reserves make the long journey to Whitehaven minus injured pair Kyle Morris and Danny Naylor, but James Murphy and Callum Short are available.
Horden CW’s recently appointed manager Martin Mulcaster is looking to strengthen his squad, but it’s uncertain whether he will make additions before tackling Boldon CA, who will probably be without James Pickering (shoulder), Adam Sharp (knee) and Adam Bell (calf).
Boldon, meanwhile, have added Barry Roberts to their management team.
Roberts managed Northern alliance side Whitburn Athletic for a number of years and will assist boss Paul Mossa.
Prudhoe Town name goalkeeper Ryan Chambers, Kevin Moreland and Michael Rankin at home to Cleator Moor Celtic.