title race wide open '“ nelson
Sunderland West End manager Anth Nelson is emphatic that it's all to play for in the race for the championship.
Ahead of tomorrow’s trip to face Annfield Plain at Derwent Park, he said: “Everybody’s making Stockton Town favourites, but we are only eight points behind them with a couple of games in hand and still have to play them twice.
“We also have to meet leaders Redcar Athletic and fourth-placed Cleator Moor Celtic, so, in my view, it’s wide open.”
West End start favourites against the Plain, who have conceded 70 goals in 20 games – the third worst defensive record.
A blow, though, is the unavailability of leading striker Barry Turton, but David Keithley is looking to start after impressing in two recent friendlies.
Annfield Plain have slipped to fifth-bottom spot but are set to name a near full-strength line-up, their only doubt being Jamie Henderson (groin injury).
Sixth-top Ashbrooke Belford House face a formidable challenge at Stockton Town, who have dropped only five points all season.
Joint manager Asa Dobbing reports that Callum Charlton and Shaun Petch come into the frame and he is looking to complete the signing of a player before kick-off.
But Kieron Stokoe, Adam Hopps, Dillon Holden and Kevin Humble are definitely out and the number of absentees will rise to five should David Scott fail a late fitness test.
Stockton, ambitious to join the Ebac Northern League, are gunning for a fourth consecutive championship and manager Michael Dunwell will have 21 of his 22-man squad on standby.
Goalkeeper Michael Arthur is still recovering from an operation but hopes to make his comeback before the end of the season.
Don Naylor has stood down as manager of Seaham Red Star Reserves and is replaced by Kevin Dixon and Ryan Consitt, who will share the duties.
“Don wasn’t well before Christmas but came back. Now though he’s decided to take a back seat. We are very grateful for what he’s done for the club,” said secretary David Copeland.
Dan Reeves has returned from a spell with Easington Colliery and he is named alongside Craig Garthwaite and Paul Henderson, who are now fully-fit but young full-back Brandon Moran will be out for a month.
Boldon CA are the visitors to Seaham Town Park and their only concern surrounds Shaun Graham. If he is available, manager Paul Mossa will field his strongest line-up.
Silksworth CW host Harton and Westoe CW, with Anthony Lowerson back in goal.
“Anthony did very well in difficult circumstances last week, saving a penalty which earned us a draw, and it’s great to have him available again,” enthused deputy chairman David Steele.
Michael McVay and Michael Brunning also come into the reckoning, while Harton go without Jak Quantrill, who is serving the second of a three-match ban imposed back in October.
Manager Jason Jones is hoping to complete the signing of Josh Clark, but definitely brings in Kyle Young, Kenny Lazenby and Andy Hall.
Horden CW manager Martin Mulcaster delays announcing his squad for the long journey to Cleator Moor Celtic.
Leam Rangers expect to hand a home debut to Chris Scott, signed from Harton and Westoe, against Richmond Town, but James Woods is struggling with a muscle strain.
Richmond have Kalumn Holbrook and Reece Gowling back, but central defenders Michael Elliott and Joe Joyce are ruled out.
Jarrow have no selection concerns at home to Wolviston, who have now lost Andy Blackburn to Hartlepool following in the footsteps of Evan McEvoy to Pool.
Prudhoe Town have Rob Graney free from suspension, while Jack Wanless has recovered fitness. The pair will line up against leaders Redcar Athletic, who have James Swann and Chris Bivens available again.
Third-top Hartlepool visit Spennymoor Town Reserves at Coxhoe and include newcomer Andy Blackburn. Jack Swailes, Joe Osbourne, Keiran Mitchell and Callum Sweeney are also expected to feature.
Spennymoor, meanwhile, have lost their appeal to be re-instated into the Durham FA Trophy.
They were defeated by Coundon and Leaholme who were guilty of fielding an ineligible player in their previous round against Whickham Sporting Bar.
Coundon were removed from the tournament and Moors’ secretary Paul Charlton claimed that they should have played Seaham Red Star Reserves in a semi-final, but the East Durham side has been given a free run into the final.
“I’m aggrieved, but that’s the ruling of Durham FA, so good luck to Seaham,” said Charlton.