ASHBROOKE Belford House face a daunting task tomorrow when they lock horns with Stockton Town in the final of the Sunderland Shipowners’ Cup.
The Wearsiders are sitting in mid-table, while Stockton are surging towards a third consecutive championship, having dropped only two points all season.
And Ashbrooke’s chances of causing an upset are not good since they go into the game without four players.
Club captain Mark Green, David Christie and Lee Andrews are injured, while Adam Frame is cup-tied.
The number of absentees will rise to five should Kieron Stokes fail a late fitness test.
In contrast, Stockton Town will be near to full strength. Their only doubt surrounds the fitness of Stephen Roberts.
Stockton, meanwhile, have had to withdraw their application for promotion to the Ebac Northern League because of legal issues surrounding the ground.
This leaves the way open for the three sides competing for the runners-up spot to take their place.
At this stage, it looks like being a two-horse race between Easington Colliery and Cleator Moor Celtic since Horden have played four games more than their rivals.
Easington are second and will be anxious to put another three points on the board at the expense of strugglers Seaton Carew at Welfare Park.
They go into the crucial game, however, minus several players. Karl Adams is banned, work commitment sideline Ian Redman, Chris Pearson and Jay Martin, while their recent signing from Esh Winning, Kyle Sumner, will have to put his debut on hold because of a hamstring injury. Kyran Whitehead is also out with a broken toe.
Fortunately, Brett Gillatt and Jordan Thompson resume and long- term injury victims Shaun Smith and David Paul could make their comeback.
Assistant manager Craig Parkinson was obviously pleased to hear of Stockton’s problems.
He said: “Promotion is now up for grabs and we’ll be going all out to finish runners-up and book a return to the ENL. Promotion would be the icing on the cake.”
Seaton Carew have been in free-fall for several weeks and are fourth-bottom, having conceded 113 goals – more than any other side.
Their chances of arresting the slide are not good since they cannot name Anthony Davies or Sean Wilson, who begins a four match ban.
Horden CW’s promotion hopes received a setback in midweek when they were beaten by Cleator Moor. They go to fifth-top Whitehaven needing nothing short of a win to keep their aspirations alive.
Cleator Moor are third, a point behind Easington and two ahead of Horden. They have played the same number of games as Easington and start favourites against second- bottom Leam Rangers at the Tynesiders’ Hilltop ground.
Sunderland West End are aiming for a top-six finish and, at home to Harton and Westoe at Ford Quarry, it’s a case of two in, two out.
Injuries sideline David Keighley and Kevin Gordon, but Kyle Young and Brad Foster come into the plans of manager Anth Nelson.
Silksworth CW play their penultimate home game of the season, hoping for an improvement in their form against Prudhoe Town.
Manager Scott Cameron was unhappy with last week’s performance, saying “The players did not meet the standards I have set and will need to work hard for a place in the Durham Trophy final.”
Silksworth’s aim now is for a mid-table finish and to beat rivals West End and Belford House for the Wearside bragging rights.
They miss captain Michael McVay and Liam Hodgson, while visitors Prudhoe Town are without Ryan Chambers and Matthew Thompson.
Neil Charlton and Mitchell McKenna remain on Spennymoor Town Reserves’ injury list and David Atkinson will need to have fitness assessed before kick-off against Redcar Athletic, who have Jamie Lee and Sam Webster back from suspension.