Youngsters in as Sunderland RCA miss an entire team in the STL Northern League

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PROBLEMS are mounting thick and fast for Sunderland RCA who are struggling to regain the form which saw them reach the top half of the STL Northern League First Division, writes MALCOLM PRATT.

Manager Neil Hixon will be without 11 players for tonight’s Brooks Mileson Memorial Cup quarter-final tie against Stokesley at Meadow Park and is having to draft in youngsters.

Hixon said: “We are really down to the bare bones. Three players – Wayne Henderson (Washington), Gary Shields (Chester-le-Street) and Keith Graydon (Bedlington) – are ineligible, having played in the competition with their previous clubs.

“Richie Logan is working and I’ve got several players injured, so it’s going to be all hands to the pumps.

“Matty Hyson signed for us earlier in the season only with a view to helping out, so I have asked him to come along and I will also name youngsters Liam Dunn and Mark Noone in the 16.”

Hixon is concerned at his defenders’ frailities which he reckons is mainly responsible for his side’s recent poor form.

“Let’s be honest, we are not at the top of our game, especially at the back,” he admitted. “We conceded three soft goals in 12 minutes on Saturday and, from then on, it was an uphill battle.

“Stokesley are near the bottom, but we will have to play better than we have done recently if we are to make the semi-finals.”

Marc Ellison can play tonight, but Saturday’s third dismissal in eight days will likely lead to a lengthy suspension.

Chester-le-Street boss Stuart Sherwood brings in three youngsters for their Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup tie at home to Hebburn, while Robbie Houghton and Tony Healer return.

Bottom-three sides Morpeth and Horden CW meet in a crucial Division Two game at Craik Park.

H Despite winning their last three games, scoring 12 times, Durham City joint manager Lee Collings anticipates a difficult Evo-Stik League game at home to Curzon Ashton tonight.

“I rate them and Chester the strongest sides in Division One North,” said Collings. “They are big and powerful but it will be a good test for our lads and if we play as we have done recently, we’ll give them a good game.”

Craig Harbord is out, while Josh Home-Jackson is expected to be sidelined for several weeks with a thigh strain. James Winter will undergo a late fitness check.