Ebac Northern League
by Malcolm Pratt
SEAHAM Red Star have suffered a major blow with the decision of midfielder Michael McKeown to join Second Division promotion rivals North Shields
Manager Mark Collingwood said: “Michael’s decision to leave has come at the worst possible time for us.
“It’s a huge blow. We never wanted him to leave, but we wish him all the best at his new club.
“The search for a replacement will intensify. We won’t stand still, players come and go. We’ve lost good players in the past and replaced them.”
Tomorrow, Red Star will attempt to erase the memory of a totally unexpected heavy defeat at Thornaby last week, but they could again find it difficult at third-top Heaton Stannington in a crucial promotion showdown.
The Stann have taken promotion from the Northern Alliance in their stride, but a double setback for them is the news that Lee Johnson and Andrew Weeks are both suspended.
Dean Deagle and Gary Dixon, who has recovered from a broken leg, are added to the squad which includes 29-goal marksman Jonathan Wright.
North Shields enjoy a six-point lead going into their home fixture with Brandon United.
The Robins will hand a debut to McKeown and their only doubt is the availability of Dean Holmes.
West Allotment Celtic, in second place, visit Tow Law Town and manager Paul Stoneman is pleased to have Robert Rogerson, Calum McGlen and Glen Ford in contention for places in the starting line-up at Ironworks Road.
Jarrow Roofing moved into fourth spot – their highest standing this term – with last week’s victory and, away to Stokesley SC tomorrow, manager Richie McLoughlin has Stuart Nicholson back from suspension. Ian Dixon, though, is banned.
Washington start the new year ninth from the basement after being bottom with just one point from their first 10 games.
The appointment of Steven Hutchinson as manager has revived the Newtowners’ fortunes in stunning fashion and their only injury concern at Alnwick Town is Michael Coughlan, who is struggling with a hamstring injury.
Chester-le-Street host Willington, with home boss Colin Wake pleased to have Tony Healer back from holiday and David Surrey free from suspension.
Willington name Graeme Lazenby, but the Hall Lane men await news on the fitness of Steven Howe (knee) and Corey Nicholson (groin).
Birtley Town boss Paul Bryson is delighted with his side’s progress going into their trip to lowly Esh Winning.
Bryson said: “We had a poor spell a few weeks ago but have come good again to move into the top six, which is a real achievement considering we have a young squad.
“Last Saturday, I had three 17-year-olds in the side which defeated South Shields. It’s great for their development and for the future of the club.”
Injury rules out Brad Staunch for the match at Waterhouses.