Hixon backing squad to rise to the challenge

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SUNDERLAND RCA are in for a busy few days but manager Neil Hixon is confident he has a big enough squad to handle the EBAC Northern League challenge.

Following tonight’s Ebac Northern League First Division game at West Auckland Town, the Wearsiders are at home to Whitley Bay on Thursday and against Hebburn Town on Saturday.

“It’s not ideal playing three games in five days but we’ve just got to get on with it,” said Hixon, who claims his new-look squad is starting to take shape.

“We are stronger and more competitive and, apart from the goalkeeper, it is more than likely I will name the same starting line-up tonight for the third successive match.

“We have suffered a lot with injuries throughout the season but things have settled down in recent weeks, which is a huge bonus,” added Hixon.

The one change forced upon Hixon tonight is because goalkeeper Craig Shields injured his shoulder on Saturday. Last night, the manager signed Scott Young from Sunderland West End and he will fill in for the next two games.

Ross Preston is still out with a groin strain but Paul Buzzeo is added to a strong pool of players.

Durham City boss Adam Furness is looking to pick up another three points and move further away from the relegation zone when his side take on bottom-of-the-table South Shields at Filtrona Park.

Ian Ward, who has missed the last two games, is back but Jordon Galloway is a definite absentee.

At one stage of the season, City were too near the basement for comfort but following Saturday’s win, they are now ninth from bottom, nine points clear of Billingham Town who occupy the third relegation spot.

Despite showing much better form lately, the Mariners are rooted to the basement and have an awful lot to do if they are to retain top-flight status.

Billingham Town picked up three crucial points at the week-end but they could find it difficult at Ashington even though the Colliers are without injured trio Gareth Bainbridge, Phill Bell and David Molloy in addition to James Taylor. Manager Gary Middleton will check the fitness of Andrew Dugdale before naming his line-up.

Dunston UTS need to turn things around, according to secretary Bill Montague, starting at home to Hebburn Town, who have also endured a torrid time in recent weeks.

“Since losing in the FA Carlsberg Vase we haven’t shown the form we are capable of and which earned us a long unbeaten sequence. Unfortunately, neither Michael Dixon nor Stephen Goddard can play tonight,” reported Montague.

Until Saturday, when they claimed a late equaliser, Hebburn had suffered nine consecutive defeats but because they made such a splendid start to their first season back in Division One, they are in no danger of making an immediate return to the Second Division.

In Division Two, Birtley Town are at home to Esh Winning with both teams in the bottom six. “It really is a six-pointer,” exclaimed manager Scott Oliver, who is forced into making changes to the side which performed so well against Ryhope CW at the week-end.

Owen Peterson may not play again this season after suffering a knee injury in Sunday football and John Martin has asked to go on the transfer list.

John Henry is also out with a knee problem and Ryan Arnott is doubtful but Chris Smith may make the starting line-up after playing the second half on Saturday. Stephen Graham, recently signed from South Shields, could also make his first start.

Chester-le-Street have an attractive game at Chester Moor Park against Morpeth Town, who are gunning for promotion.

Although they are eighth top and 12 points outside the promotion pack, the Northumbrians have several games in hand on all the sides above them.

Jarrow Roofing are at home to Whitehaven in the second round of the Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup.