WITH only three games left to play, Ryhope CW must surely defeat Richmond Town tonight if they are to have any chance of overtaking Stockton Town in the race for the Wearside League championship.
The Wearsiders travel into Yorkshire four points behind the Teessiders, who have a match in hand. Michael Charlton and Greg Swansbury are definite absentees and three players are doubtful after picking up injuries against Silksworth CW at the week-end.
Jonathan Yip (ankle), Richard Jordan (calf) and Ross Stead (knee) will need their fitness assessed before the team is announced. Neal Bussey, who has been sidelined for several weeks, could be involved at some stage.
Ryhope, meanwhile, have announced that Dean Simpson has joined the club as physio and goalkeeping coach.
Stockton, though, can take a step towards retaining the title by beating Prudhoe Town at Kimberley Park.
Injury keeps out Luke Whittaker and Scott Meehan is working, so it’s likely that manager Stephen Gill will stick with the same side which drew with Seaton Carew on Saturday.
Prudhoe, fifth from bottom, have Craig Forster suspended, while Andrew Clarkson is also ruled out.
On Saturday, Ryhope’s hopes suffered a mighty blow when they were beaten 3-1 by neighbours Silksworth CW.
Phil Hall headed Ryhope into a 44th-minute lead, but, after Rob Hall levelled following a corner, former Ryhope player Willie Crew clinched a memorable derby victory for Silksworth.
He gave his side the advantage on 80 minutes and, when Ryhope pressed searching for an equaliser, Crew was again on target a minute from the end.
Stockton Town also dropped points, drawing at home to Seaton Carew.
Tony Johnson chipped goalkeeper Gary Fleetham for the opener, but Seaton, who have been in good form recently, hit back with a 52nd-minute equaliser by Luke Naylor.
Sunderland West End were involved in a six-goal thriller at Jarrow, which ended with honours even.
Liam Bayles fired past West End goalkeeper Lee Burrell for the only goal in the first half and, early in the second period, he was again on target, intercepting a back pass.
With 10 minutes left, Jamie Fryatt threw the Wearsiders a lifeline, but, almost immediately, Jarrow went two goals up again, courtesy of Tom Smith.
It looked all over for West End, but they claimed a point with two goals in the last four minutes, thanks to Chris Pearson and Fryatt.
Ashbrooke Belford House also shared the points on their visit to Prudhoe Town, who were twice ahead.
Scott Watson struck after only 10 minutes before Mark Green restored parity before the interval.
Prudhoe’s Jake Hall converted a 65th-minute penalty for 2-1, but, with only five minutes remaining, David Scott drove in the equaliser.
Easington Colliery thumped second-bottom Hartlepool as seven goals flowed in the space of 43 minutes from David Paul (2), Michael Patterson (2), Nick Doyle (penalty), David Laight and Rhys Brymer.
Pool remain second bottom, equal on points with Coxhoe Athletic, who have two games in hand. Coxhoe, despite enjoying a lot of possession, succumbed 2-0 to Annfield Plain, whose match-winners were Malik Kalimba and Anthony Telfer, with a terrific 25-yarder which gave goalkeeper Gary Poole no chance.
Leam Rangers marginally improved their chances of avoiding the wooden spoon and now lead the bottom two by a point after drawing 1-1 with Harton and Westoe CW.
Leam’s Terry Cairns struck on 30 minutes and Harton keeper Gary Frater was sent off for handling outside the box a before the break.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Harton levelled with a Finbar Lynch penalty, awarded after Leam goalkeeper Ryan Docherty brought down Levi Collins.