AS Silksworth CW prepare for tomorrow’s final Wearside League game of the year, chairman David Steele reflected on the improvement which has been achieved in the last 12 months.
He said: “Last December, we were rock bottom and ended the season as wooden spoonists, but we are ninth top and there’s now a real buzz around the place.
“We’ve come on leaps and bounds and our aim now is to push on still further in the new year.”
The Colliers begin their second half of the season by visiting Coxhoe Athletic tomorrow.
Manager Mark McGinley misses Enuardo Udao, Mark Robinson and John Bowes.
Captain Daley Clarke is doubtful and McGinley will need to choose between Graeme Picking and Joe Clayton for the goalkeeper’s jersey.
Coxhoe are where Silksworth were a year ago. The lowly Beechfield Park side have won just twice, but have games in hand on the three sides immediately above them.
Secretary Paul Charlton reports that goalkeeper Antony Lowerson has joined Northern League club Billingham Town, and an injury rules out Neil Charlton tomorrow.
Sunderland West End’s recently appointed manager, Anthony Nelson, has signed Kieran Martin and Lewis Conlin, who are set to make their debuts at fourth-bottom Leam Rangers.
The sides have already met twice this season, with honours even.
Rangers cannot name Guillame Gaborit or Jordan Stevens, but are hopeful that Nikki Langston will come through a fitness check.
Easington Colliery stage an attractive game, with leaders Stockton Town the visitors to Welfare Park.
Paul Frame’s Colliers have improved considerably in recent weeks and are buoyant following last Saturday’s excellent performance and result against Seaton Carew.
Assistant manager Craig Parkinson has nine players coming into contention, with Nick Doyle, Rick Maughan, Simon French, Luke Page, Bryan Norton, Kris Johnson, Michael Noble, David Laight and recent signing Callum Mordey all competing for places in the starting line-up.
In-form David Paul and Dale Spence are definite absentees, while Brett Gillatt faces a late fitness check.
Stockton are riding high, a point ahead of Ryhope CW at the top.
They will create a club record if they keep a clean sheet for the fifth consecutive game.
The Teessiders are unbeaten in their last 30 league games and have lost just once in 38 league and cup matches.
With goalkeeper Marshall Arthur still unavailable, Daniel Peterkin will deputise for the third consecutive game.
Second-bottom Boldon CA miss captain David Halliday for the local derby at home to Harton and Westoe CW.
There could be further disappointing news for manager David Jones, who has been unable to field the same side twice. He awaits news from Alex Chapman who limped out of last week’s game.
Horden CW face a tricky challenge at fourth-top Redcar Athletic, who are boosted by the return of Roy Hunter. He has been out for four months with an injury. Mitchell Morris, meanwhile, has joined Thornaby.
Richmond Town host Jarrow without influential midfielder Kalumn Holbrook.
Defender Ben Palmer is doubtful with a knee injury, but Scott Guy, Gary Sharda, Chris Pattison and Simon Pinkney are back.
After blowing a two-goal lead last week, Seaton Carew will be looking to tighten up at the back when they host Annfield Plain.
The Seasiders could hand a debut to Harrison Smith, and Lee Jones is also available, but work commitments could sideline Mattie Thomas.
Annfield manager Tony Heslop is targeting a win to end the year and his side’s chances are enhanced with the inclusion of Paul Newton, Martin O’Neil, Lee Mole, Jake Burns and Liam Radbourne.
An attractive Shipowners’ Cup second round tie is in prospect when second-top Ryhope CW host neighbours Ashbrooke Belford House, who are sixth.
The Colliers miss Neal Bussey (ankle) and James Dunn (calf) and manager Garry Errington will need to assess the fitness of Jack Pounder before finalising his line-up.
Belford also have selection concerns and will not choose their team until nearer kick-off.
Wolviston will aim to make home advantage count against Prudhoe Town in the League Cup first round.
Shaun Gregory and Lee Butterworth could figure for the hosts, while Prudhoe, who expect to name a new assistant manager early in the new year, are at full strength.