Sunderland RCA – the only Northern League side definitely through to the fourth round of the FA Carlsberg Vase – return to league action tomorrow when they visit Penrith.
Manager Martin Swales, though, wants his side to put next week’s mouth-watering home tie against Sleaford Town on the back burner.
He said: “We are ninth, but there’s only five points between ourselves and third-placed Guisborough Town, so we have a lot to play for in the league during 2016.
“A win tomorrow could see us take another step up the table and the lads need to concentrate on picking up another three points.”
Swales will be absent from the game and the team will be in the capable hands of player-coach Colin Larkin and Ian Smith.
The pair welcome back a quintet of players, with Andrew Brown, Liam Hatch, Jack Pounder, Lee Cresswell and Luke Proctor all competing for places in the starting line-up.
Michael Charlton and Kevin Gordon will hope to come through fitness checks, but neither James Armstrong nor Adam Drysdale can play.
“It will be a tough game at Penrith. We scraped a 2-1 victory at home against them, but they are a strong side on their own pitch,” observed Swales.
Seaham Red Star boss Mark Collingwood reckons his team will “give it a right go” in their attractive home game against championship contenders Guisborough Town at Seaham Town Park.
“They are third, but we have steadily improved since the start of the season and are now just one place off mid-table, which is quite an achievement during our first season back in the top flight,” claimed Collingwood.
Lewis Wing, though, will be a big miss for Red Star. His loan period has expired and he has returned to Shildon.
Although it’s not exactly a six-pointer, Durham City’s visit to Jarrow Roofing is important for both sides, who have slipped into the bottom eight.
Following their Boxing Day defeat by Consett, the Citizens remain eighth from the basement but only a point ahead of Roofing who have played five fewer matches.
“I don’t think the 3-0 scoreline was a fair reflection of the play at Consett, but we need to bounce back with a good result,” said City manager Chris Moore, who definitely misses Nicky Allen.
Aidan Haley, who had to be substituted after only 10 minutes at the Belle View Stadium, is an injury concern, as is Ross Wilkinson, who hasn’t played for a month because of a hamstring problem.
Jarrow Roofing boss Richie McLoughlin has signed Stephen Turnbull from Consett and Richard Paxton from Washington in a bid to boost the strength of his squad.
Both players are expected to feature at some stage, but Anth Myers misses out with a hand injury.
McLoughlin observed: “Durham are not going well, but, to be honest ,neither are we. There’s just three places and three points between ourselves and the last relegation place, so we need to start putting points on the board, beginning tomorrow.”
Washington are at the seaside for their fixture with Marske United and a win for the Mechanics would propel them to at least fourth place, but, if they lose, Marske will leap-frog them.
Morpeth Town’s lead has been whittled down to a single point, although they have played two games fewer than Shildon, ahead of their fixture at West Allotment Celtic.
Manager Nick Gray is set to hand a debut to Mateusz Halambiec, who played for the club as a youth before spending eight years in Poland.
Newcastle Benfield’s management team of Paul Brayson and Mark Convery cannot wait to get started again.
“It’s been very frustrating because we did pretty well after taking over. We racked up two wins and a draw from five games, which was an improvement, and we are now seventh-from-bottom, going into our home match with Consett,” observed Brayson.
There’s a chance that Andy Grainger, ranked one of the best keepers in the league, will make his seasonal debut. He has not played since May following an operation.
After arresting a four-game losing sequence by defeating Durham City on Boxing Day, Consett boss Colin Myers wants to build up a bit of momentum.
“It was not only a good result but a good performance against Durham and hopefully we can kick-on and go on a bit of a run,” observed Myers, who adds the returning Lance McGlen to a full squad.