INJURIES and unavailabilities have forced Sunderland into a major reshuffle for Saturday’s crucial Durham and Northumberland Division Two visit of Ashington.
Facing up to one of the few sides to have dominated them up front this season, the Ashbrooke side could ill afford to lose four regular front row forwards while also missing two of their regular backline.
Up front, Chris Geehan, Tom Hirst and Pete Harrison are all at weddings, while Alan Ross is Sunderland’s only victim of the football club’s trip to Wembley.
Damion Martinez is the one regular front row forward available, while the scrum won’t be weakened at all by the inclusion of man mountain Ryan Buckley at tight head.
Grant Edmundson has the task of filling the hooker’s berth vacated by Harrison as Sunderland look to avenge an away defeat earlier in the season.
Elsewhere in the forwards, captain Peter Carter – who missed last week’s 31-5 victory at Wallsend as Sunderland dusted off the cobwebs caused by six weeks of inactivity – returns to the side alongside Jake Belfield in the second row.
In the backs, Michael Heffernan is once again missing and Dom Arkley is also unavailable. Sammy Vaughan continues at full-back, with Craig O’Donnovan selected in place of Arkley on the wing.
Sunderland’s backline is otherwise at full strength as Gav Stirling and Tom Townend make up the half-backs, with Matt Goforth and Harry Levison in the centres.
Sunderland I (home to Ashington; meet 1pm, KO 2.15pm): Carter, Sumner, Belfield,Turnbull, Edmundson, Martinez, Buckley, Watt, Drummond, Finlay, Stirling, Brace, Townend, Goforth, Levison, O’Donnovan, Vaughan, Abraham.
H Table-toppers Horden are away to mid-table Medicals in Division One on Saturday, while Durham City, sitting in third place, visit second-top Blyth, who are four points better off.
H Seaham entertain Newton Aycliffe in a battle of third and fourth as they look to bolster their promotion push in Division Three, while Houghton, fresh from their 104-0 drubbing of Jarrovians last weeK, are away to fifth-placed Sedgefield.
Washington welcome second-top Winlaton Vulcans to Biddick.