Stirling switch for Ashbrooke men

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SUNDERLAND face Hartlepool opposition for the second weekend in a row, with BBOB the visitors to Ashbrooke on Saturday.

BBOB remain somewhat of an unknown quantity to the Wearsiders, with the sides’ paths not crossing in recent years.

Having been promoted from Durham and Northumberland Division Three last term, BBOB have made a solid start to life in Division Two, currently lying sixth in the table.

That may, however, be a false position given that they have three matches in hand over most of the league. If they win all those games they will be challenging the top three, so Sunderland know they will have to be on their game for 80 minutes on Saturday.

Coach Fraser Kennedy has been sensible in his selection policy and makes only one change to the starting line-up which beat Hartlepool last week, with Gav Stirling coming into the side at scrum-half in place of Michael Brace.

The rest of the backline remains unchanged and the pack that started last week are all retained.

The only other changes to the squad are on the bench. Flanker Bryan Finlay makes a welcome return to the squad having missed the last two weeks through injury. Finlay had been in exceptional form prior to his injury but Andy Sumner retains his place at openside after a good display last week.

Ross Finch drops down to the seconds to gain some match fitness having been pressed into first-team action sooner than he would have like after a long injury lay-off.

Sammy Vaughan also returns from injury to provide backline cover.

Sunderland I (home to Hartlepool BBOB, meet 1pm, KO 2.15pm): Martinez, Harrison, Ross, Carter, Belfield, Drummond, Sumner, Watt, Stirling, Townend, Abraham, Levison, Goforth, Arkley, Heffernan. Reps: Geehan, Finlay, Vaughan.

H Fifth-top Durham City host Gosforth in Division One, while Horden, in fourth, entertain second-top Blyth, who have won eight games out of 10 so far.

H The Third Division returns to action after a week off, with leaders Seaham facing a difficult task away to third-top Newton Aycliffe, while Houghton entertain Sedgefield in a mid-table battle at Dairy Lane and Washington are away to fourth-placed Winlaton Vulcans.