Northern League: The state of play for Sunderland RCA, Ryhope CW, Seaham Red Star and Washington
The weekend wipe-out allowed Steve Clarke the chance to gauge the thoughts of managers ahead of a now hectic run-in to the end of the Northern League First Division season.
Sunderland RCA are ninth in the top flight and manager Martin Swales said: “We’ve had a fantastic season so far.
“I would say we’ve done quite well in the FA Cup, which we have struggled in in previous years.
“We got to the second round this year, which is good for us.
“In the FA Vase, we’ve done well previously, getting to the fifth round last year, but we were disappointed to only get to the third round this season.
“At present, we’re joint seventh in the league. With 13 games to go, we’re only nine points lower than the end of last season, so I fully expect us to beat that.
“I anticipate us finishing with our best points tally for many years.
“I’m very happy with our position in the league and hope to finish in the top ten at least.”
Swales added: “Last year, we finished 11th, but I believe we can finish in the top six and this will be our target.
“With regards to the squad, we had a major overhaul, bringing in several new players.
“Luke Page has been outstanding. I’ve also been impressed with 17-year-old Kieron Parnaby, who came to us from Tow Law.
“Dylan Elliott, from Hartlepool, joined us as an 18-year-old and has scored in double figures from central midfield and has been outstanding for a youngster and centre forward Nathan O’Neill, from Ryhope, has scored 20-plus goals in his first season with us.
“Goalkeeper Keith Finch came to us in mid-October and, although he came to us as the No 2 goalkeeper, he has quickly moved up the ranks and taken over the No 1 spot.”
Ryhope CW are battling to stay above the drop zone, with games in hand a big helping hand for their run-in.
Assistant manager Stuart Gooden said: “We had a great start to the season and picked up a lot of points, but, from October to January, we had a slump in form.
“This coincided with injuries and suspensions, as well as the spate of bad weather, which hasn’t helped any teams.
“But, despite this poor spell, we didn’t get downhearted. Even though we weren’t getting the points, our performances deserved more, as we lost many games by a single goal.
“We had a much-needed win last week (against Newton Aycliffe) and hope to build on this.
“We are in a relegation battle, but have games in hand, which should help to pull us away from the bottom.
“We are aiming for a top-12 finish in the league, and we’ve reached the quarter-final of the League Cup, away to Newcastle Benfield.
“We ended the season 17th last year. Our aim at the beginning of this campaign was to beat that, so we’re still on course to achieve that.”
Seaham Red Star are 14th, with rookie manager Craig Lynch in charge for just the last couple of weeks, since taking over from Chris McCabe.
The ex-Sunderland reserve-team player said: “The season’s been very up and down.
“I’ve only been in charge for two weeks, but I’m feeling optimistic.
“We’ve had some good and some not so good results. Hopefully, over the remainder of the season, we can look to get ourselves into the top 10. To finish 10th would be a good final position for us to be in.”
Washington have had a difficult season, and they sit second-bottom, 13 points from safety with just nine games to play.
Andrew Gibson, the Mechanics’ head of PR, said: “We have put a lot of faith in our junior players and we will be looking to bring some experienced players, to add to the squad next season, albeit likely to be in Division Two.
“However, we have some new committee members in place and the chairman is working very hard to attract more sponsors, to give ourselves every chance of a successful season when we start again in August.
Consett are second-top, heading into their final nine matches, with automatic promotion to be taken by the top two at the end of the campaign.
Manager Mark Eccles said: “I think we’ve had an up and down season. We’ve played some good football, but at other times, for whatever reason, we simply haven’t turned up.
“There are no easy games in this league, but against lesser teams we’ve let ourselves down.
“We should be challenging for the league title this season.
“Although we’re currently second, we should be closer to Morpeth and challenging them a lot more.
“I would like us to finish top-five, which means we need a good run up to the end of the season.
“Hopefully we might win a cup, as we’ve reached the semi-final of the Durham Challenge Cup. A good push next season might see us getting the promotion we desire.”