Northern League: RCA back to reality, with North Shields in the firing line

Sunderland RCA skipper Clayton Davis takes on Bristol Manor Farm in the FA Vase last week. Picture by Kevin Brady
Sunderland RCA skipper Clayton Davis takes on Bristol Manor Farm in the FA Vase last week. Picture by Kevin Brady
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Following the heartbreak of going out of the FA Vase last weekend, and their midweek Durham Challenge Cup exit, it’s back to the bread and butter of putting First Division points on the board when Sunderland RCA host North Shields at Meadow Park tomorrow.

“I was proper disappointed, but we’ve got to put the defeat behind us and challenge to finish in the top six, which would be a great achievement,” declared manager Martin Swales.

North Shields also made their exit from the Vase on Monday night and Swales was present to see them beaten by Morpeth Town.

He added: “They are a good team, but we seem to play better against strong opponents when we raise our game, so hopefully we can take the three points. A win could lift us to eighth.”

Liam Hatch and Luke Richardson come into the plans of Swales, but he is forced to go without injured pair James Armstrong and Ross McNab – the grandson of former Sunderland midfielder Jimmy.

There is some good news on the Vase front for the Wearsiders, though, in that next season they will not enter until the second round proper.

“It means we miss the preliminary and qualifying rounds, which will be a big plus. Not only will it free up space for league games, but if you are drawn away it can be costly,” observed Swales.

Washington boss Steve Hutchinson admits last week’s game at Shildon was “a nightmare”.

After convincingly defeating the Railwaymen a few days earlier in the Durham Challenge Cup, the Mechanics were swept aside in a 7-1 defeat at Dean Street.

“We went there confident, but it happens sometimes when everything just goes wrong and it was one of those days,” said Hutchinson.

Hopefully, we can get back onto a winning track at the expense of West Allotment Celtic tomorrow, but it won’t be easy since they are fighting for survival.”

Chris Wallace and Paul Wardle come into Hutchinson’s thoughts and a definite starter will be left-back Anthony Callaghan, who has re-signed from Darlington 1883.

James Cassidy, though, will need his ankle injury assessed before Hutchinson finalises his 16-man squad.

Seaham Red Star manager Mark Collingwood is making no excuses and insists the team need to get back on track, starting at home to Bishop Auckland.

He said: “We’ve been too inconsistent and it’s a must-win game tomorrow. They are only a couple of points above us but have played four fewer matches, so it’s definitely a game we can take something from.”

Star’s recent signing from Easington Colliery, prolific striker David Paul, will start and David Scorer comes into the squad, but Liam McBryde is not yet ready to make his comeback.

Durham City have slipped to sixth-bottom spot, only three points outside the drop zone, going into their testing game with leaders Shildon at Consett.

Norton and Stockton Ancients are bottom, but the midweek win at Whitley Bay will give them confidence that they can avoid making an immediate return to the Second Division.

The Teessiders line up Curtis Collantine, but Dale Elgie is out with ankle ligament damage sustained in Tuesday’s game.

In contrast, visitors Consett are seventh-top, but manager Colin Myers has keeper Peter Jeffries, Mattie Slocombe, Dan Madden and Keiran Megran all sidelined.

West Auckland are involved in a crucial bottom-three battle when they go to Bedlington Terriers.

“We’ve had a good run of form which hopefully will continue at the expense of West Auckland. It’s a real relegation battle and another test for us but I think we can get a positive result,” claimed Terriers’ manager Andy Ferrell.

Dan Staples played the full 90 minutes for the first time in six months last Saturday and Ferrell will have to decide whether Peter Denton, on loan from Hartlepool, or Staples plays in goal.

Although Whitley Bay have games in hand on all their rivals, they are only outside the drop zone on goal difference and need to start adding to their meagre 18-point total.

They will not find the going easy at Newcastle Benfield, who have improved markedly since the appointment of Paul Brayson and Mark Convery as joint managers.

“Mark and I are very happy at the way things have gone. We’ll be playing at home for only the second time since October and, with a fully-fit squad, I’m confident of racking up another win,” claimed Brayson.

Jarrow Roofing go to Newton Aycliffe, with Adam Rundle added to the travelling squad.