SUNDERLAND face an early test of their promotion chances when they visit Redcar on Saturday.
The Wearsiders head south on a high after last week’s demolition of Prudhoe and Stocksfield, but Redcar should provide a tougher test for the Ashbrooke side and give them a better idea of where they stand in the Durham and Northumberland Division Two pecking order.
Having finished third in the division last year, Redcar will be hoping to go one better this year and, despite losing a host of players during the close season, go into the game on the back of a narrow opening day victory away to Seaton Carew.
The Teesiders will be hosting their annual ladies day, so will no doubt be fired up and out to impress.
As far as Sunderland are concerned, their injury jinx has struck already with Matt Goforth sidelined for at least five weeks with a badly broken finger sustained in last week’s game, while a number of the pack are carrying knocks and niggles which will need to be assesed after training tonight in order to have the squad 100 per cent confirmed.
On top of the loss of Goforth, two of the star performers of Sunderlands pre- and early-season games, Damion Martinez and John Drummond, are both unavailable due to other commitments. Ryan Buckley starts in the front row, with Jake Belfield replacing Drummond on the blindside flank.
In a relatively unchanged backline, Craig O’Donovan comes in for Goforth in the centres, with the remainder as named against Prudhoe and Stocksfield.
Sunderland seconds entertain Alnwick, looking to improve on last week’s promising start to the season.
The Ashbrooke side will be looking to the likes of youngster Harry Levison and Sammy Vaughan to push for claims on first-team slots, while Joe Arrowsmith is named on the bench having just returned from holiday and no doubt chomping at the bit to get back into first-team action.
Sunderland I (away to Redcar, meet 12.45, KO 3pm): Buckley, Geehan, Ross, Carter, Elstob, Belfield, Finlay, Watt, Stirling, Dobson, Abraham, O’Donovan, Townend, Arkley, Heffernan. Subs: Harrison, Evans, Lydon
Sunderland II (home to Alnwick, meet 1.15, KO 3pm): Dean Marshall, Jason Wright, Kristian Summerside, Clive Fish, Shaun Marshall, Adam Reay, Mick Mathews, Jimmy Cogden, Michael Brace, Joe Lamb, Sam Jordan, Sammy Vaughan, Harry Levison, Ed Townend, Louis Sopp. Subs: Philly Belfield, Rory Flindall, Joe Arrowsmith, Barry Chod, Colin Wallace
H In Durham and Northumberland Division One, Horden look to build on their impressive opening-day victory when they host Novos, while Durham, City, beaten by Hartlepool Rovers last weekend, entertain Darlington at Hollow Drift.
H The Third Division programme kicks off with Seaham entertaining Sedgefield, Houghton hosting Winlaton Vulcans and Washington away to Jarrovians.