SUNDERLAND RCA expect their biggest gate of the season tonight when they aim to stretch their unbeaten record in the STL Northern League First Division to eight games at the expense of Bishop Auckland.
Six wins and a draw have propelled Neil Hixon’s into a six points lead and following their superb win against third-top Newcastle Benfield at the week-end, official Colin Wilson claimed the club is buoyant.
“We are delighted and surprised by the start we have made but it’s no fluke. We’ve actually had a difficult programme. Not many sides will get much at Newcastle Benfield and although our winner on Saturday came late, it was well deserved,” observed Wilson.
Manager Hixon cannot call upon Joe Walton, Harrison Davies or Kyle Donaldson but captain Carl Beasley is free from suspension. Striker John Butler will need his fitness assessed shortly before kick-off.
Consett have hit form following an indifferent start and victory at West Auckland will lift them into second place, ahead of Whitley Bay and Newcastle Benfield.
In Division Two, newly-appointed manager Anth Smith takes charge of Chester-le-Street for the first time at Esh Winning, who will fancy their chances after scoring five times on Saturday.
Smith has doubts surrounding the fitness of defender Scott Donaldson and striker Sam Renwick.
Birtley Town are at home to Gillford Park and boss Scott Oliver is relieved the cricket season is over.
He said, “Two of our biggest players Owen Peterson and Kevin Dixon haven’t been able to play on Saturdays and there’s no doubt we’ve missed them.”
Ben Gawthorpe, the former Esh Winning full back, could make his debut as Oliver plans Birtley’s rise up the table.
“Now that we are at full strength and with Barry Fleming on board as my assistant, I’m confident we can take the club forward.
“Barry has taken Washington, Esh Winning and Ryton up into the top flight. He has bags of experience and I’m really enjoying working with him,” enthused Oliver.
Seaham Red Star face the daunting challenge of travelling to Whitehaven. “It’s a nightmare taking a team over there mid-week and this is the fourth time we’ve done it this year,” said manager Kevin Turns who is looking to add experience to a young squad.
“On Saturday, we only had three players over 20 years of age in a squad of 13. Two were under 17 while eight were under 19.
“There is potential but we are lacking an old head or two and hopefully there will be developments this week. I’m close to bringing in a couple of players,” added Turns.
A boost is the return of Anth Laidler and Liam Hodgson but a doubt exists for Craig McManus.
Horden CW boss Brian Honour is set to give Ian Tumilty his first outing, against Thornaby at Welfare Park.
Michael Joseph, Craig Shields, Jack Proctor, Stephen Jackson and Liam Woodhouse are also available but Jack Honour is on duty with Durham County Under-18s.
H A third attempt will be made to settle the FA Cup Preliminary Round tie between South Shields and Newcastle Benfield.
Following a 1-1 draw, last week’s replay was abandoned at half-time because of a floodlight failure at Filtrona Park.
Alu Bangura will be in charge of Benfield following the shock resignation of Paul Baker after Saturday’s game with Sunderland RCA.