Miracle needed but Hebburn boss is not giving up

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SUNDERLAND RCA, and at least other three clubs, will anxiously await the results from three crucial Ebac Northern League First Division games tonight.

With Billingham Town already relegated, it appears that any two from eight will join them in Division Two next season.

Hebburn Town need a miracle to survive but manager Scott Oliver hasn’t thrown in the towel.

Ahead of the visit from championship challengers Spennymoor Town, he said: “A couple of weeks ago, I would have said it was all over but we’ve clearly improved. Last week, we lost to fourth-top Ashington when they scored with virtually the last kick of the game and on Saturday, we held second-placed Shildon to a draw.

“We still have 27 points to play for and we must go all out in every game until it is mathematically impossible for us to stay up.”

It will not be easy against Spennymoor, even though Hebburn have home advantage. Jason Ainsley’s men are involved in a four-way fight for the title and although they trail leaders Celtic Nation by 11 points they have seven games in hand on the Cumbrians.

Hebburn miss suspended midfielder Mark Costello while centre forward Channon North is rated doubtful.

Shildon and West Auckland Town are also battling to end in pole position but although Ashington are fourth going into their game at home to strugglers Marske United, they probably have too much to do.

Marske are embroiled in the relegation dogfight and defeat against Ashington would be a boost for the other teams battling against the drop.

Penrith have dropped to fourth from bottom following defeat at the weekend, and desperately need to pick up points from their home fixture with Bishop Auckland.

H Team Northumbria lost 4-2 to Shildon last night. Ben Wood and Paul Connor (2) had Shildon comfortably ahead at the half-way stage but after Tom Chippendale reduced the deficit on the hour mark, he again struck in the 88th minute to set up an exciting finish.

Wood, though, scored again in added time to clinch three crucial points for Shildon, who remain second top and now only six points adrift of leaders Celtic Nation with three games in hand.

Team North are third bottom, four points behind Sunderland RCA, who have two games in hand.

H In Division Two, Washington could go equal on points with eighth-top Birtley Town if they win at Whitehaven.

“We were in tremendous form on Saturday when we put seven goals past Ryton and Crawcrook Albion,” said manager Stephen Hutchinson.

“I’ve said it would only be a matter of time before we gave a side a real hiding so I wasn’t surprised.”

The Newtowners miss five players tonight. Mark Catcheside, Richard Patton and Mark Davison are unavailable while Adam Croft and Paul Kane are injured. A bonus, though, is the return of Adam Burns.

Chester-le-Street manager Colin Wake is looking for a greatly improved performance from his squad at promotion hopefuls Heaton Stannington.

“We gave a shocking display on Saturday even though we got a draw against Brandon United and we’ll need to play a lot better if we are to take anything out of tonight’s match,” said Wake, who misses Michael Graver, David Surrey and Michael Hepplewhite.

Heaton are fifth and their Tyneside neighbours West Allotment Celtic go into their fixture at Whickham in fourth.

Both teams will be aiming to close in on Seaham Red Star, whose good form has moved them up to third.

South Shields, with as many as eight games in hand on some of the sides below them, are not in immediate danger. The Mariners meet another in-form side Thornaby at their temporary Peterlee headquarters.

A good gate is expected at West Auckland Town for the Brooks Mileson Memorial Cup quarter-final tie against Whitley Bay.

On Saturday, West became the only ENL side to reach the semi-finals of the FA Carlsberg when they defeated Dunston UTS. They will now meet St Andrews, who knocked out Newcastle Benfied at the week-end, in the two-leg tie. West host the first game on March 29 and will travel to Leicestershire the following Saturday.

The final will be at Wembley on Saturday. May 10.