Hixon ready for tough FA Cup tie

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THINGS could hardly have gone better for Sunderland RCA who go into tomorrow’s daunting FA Cup preliminary round tie against Spennymoor Town at the Brewery Field, writes MALCOLM PRATT.

The Wearsiders were expected to be deposed from the top spot on Wednesday night but second-placed Newcastle Benfield lost, much to the satisfaction of manager Neil Hixon, pictured.

He said: “We moved into pole position for the first time in the club’s history last weekend and I thought it might only be temporary so it’s a real morale boost to be still there before tomorrow’s tie.

“We are undefeated having won five and drawn one of our six league and cup games but make no mistake about it, Spennymoor will be our strongest challenge so far.”

A blow for Hixon is the unavailability of Lee Owens who is suspended for five games. Joe Walton is a fitness doubt but James Oates is expected to be added to the squad.

Mark Davison has been on song for RCA this season and will hope to make an impact again at Spennymoor.

Spennymoor Town have star-man Gavin Cogdon banned and Chris Lowther is definitely out but Lewis Dodds is hopeful of recovering from an ankle knock.

Assistant manager Perry Briggs said: “This will be a really tough game. They’ve made a good start so it’s going to be a tight affair.”

Newcastle Benfield will aim to bounce back to winning form at the expense of pointless South Shields.

Manager Paul Baker reports that Shaun Bell is struggling with a knee injury but Scott Martindale could come into contention.

The Mariners’ only injury doubt is Stephen Ramsey but boss Gary Steadman expects to have a full squad on standby.

“They’re our bogie team and we never seem to do well against them but there’s always a first time and let’s hope it’s tomorrow,” quipped Steadman.

Whitley Bay have home advantage over Marske United and manager Ian Chandler, who has guided the Seahorses into three successful FA Carlsberg Vase finals, is hopeful of a decent run in the FA Cup.

“There’s something magical about the FA Cup for clubs at our level, so hopefully we’ll make it into the qualifying rounds.”

Whitley have obtained international clearance for Chris Reed who has been playing in Australia and also available are David Pounder and Kyle Downey but star striker Paul Chow is away.

Ashington miss Andy Dugdale and Craig Scott and in addition, Stephen Young, Darren Lough and Joe Race are rated doubtful for the home tie with Northallerton Town.

Bedlington Terriers, who scored no fewer than 19 goals in two games last weekend, entertain Billingham Town without Chris Philipson, who could be out for six weeks with a broken arm.