Ashbrooke men eye boost at Hartlepool

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SUNDERLAND make the journey south to Hartlepool on Saturday looking to build on last week’s impressive victory against promotion rivals Ryton.

With table-topping Whitley Bay not having a game this weekend, Sunderland could close the gap on top spot in Durham and Northumberland Division Two to four points with a win.

Sunderland will look to learn their lesson from their recent trip to Ashington and will not be taking Hartlepool lightly.

Although the home side lie in mid-table, all of Hartlepools games have been close affairs and they are a team capable of beating anyone on their day.

Unlike their trip to Ashington, Sunderland have managed to name a near-full strength squad with only limited changes to the side which defeated Ryton.

Joe Arrowsmith is unavailable and, with Bryan Finlay also missing, youngster Andy Sumner comes into the pack on the open side.

John Drummond returns from illness to line up on the blindside, meaning Jake Belfield reverts to the second row and James Hansen drops down to the seconds.

In the backs, Gav Stirling has work commitments, so Michael Brace comes in at scrum-half, while last week’s points machine, Tom Townend, continues at stand-off.

The only other change to the backline sees Dan Abraham come into the side on the wing.

Sammy Vaughan misses out with a shoulder injury picked up last week.

Sunderland I (away to Hartlepool, meet 12.15): Martinez, Harrison, Ross, Carter, Belfield, Drummond, Sumner, Watt, Brace, Townend, Arkley, Levison, Goforth, Abraham, Heffernan. Reps: Geehan, Finch, Dobson.