NEWCASTLE Benfield manager Steve Bowey claims these are exciting times at the Sam Smiths ground – and he is confident his side will give runaway leaders Darlington 1883 a good game this afternoon.
Bowey, whose aim is to ensure the Tynesiders’ First Division survival, said: “We haven’t lost since I took over and this will be a test against an in-form team.
“There should be a big crowd and I know the lads will put on a decent performance.”
Benfield’s chances of causing an upset today are enhanced with the availability of Kevin Leighton, Tom English and David Southern.
Two sides in the top four clash and the outcome could go a long way in deciding who will finish third.
Whitley Bay manager Ian Chandler said: “West Auckland Town are third and we are fourth. Although we are eight points behind them, we have three games in hand so today’s match is crucial for both teams.”
Chandler is without Lee Paul Scroggins and Craig Smith.
Ashington are looking for a top-six finish and, at home to Guisborough Town, manager Gary Middleton has to reckon without Gareth Bainbridge and David Molloy.
The Colliers, meanwhile, have released defender Jordan Mellish and midfielder Josh Gray.
Following nine consecutive defeats in all competitions, Hebburn Town manager Paul Bennett is anxious for the tide to turn, starting against Consett on South Tyneside.
He has said since the day Hebburn were promoted the aim was to consolidate during their first season in the top flight and, following a splendid start, they remain in 10th position despite their recent abysmal form.
Consett are in the bottom half of the table and boss Kenny Lindoe reckons his side needs to step up a gear.
He said: “We were far from at our best in the midweek fixture but managed a point.”
The Steelmen miss Scott Martindale and Lindoe will need to assess the fitness of Ryan Bell before announcing his line-up.
Sunderland RCA manager Neil Hixon was encouraged with his team’s performance in the last game but he expects a difficult time at Bedlington Terriers, who are eyeing a top-six finish.
Hixon has signed Paul Wardle and Callum Charlton from Hebburn Town and the pair re expected to be named alongside Gary Shaw, Scott Richards, Lee Owens and Lewis Graham, who all missed the last match.
Durham City travel to bottom-of-the-table Norton and Stockton Ancients and manager Adam Furness insists his side is not yet clear of the threat of relegation.
He said: “We’ve been on a sticky run and we need three points.”
Team Northumbria could have a pool of 27 players on stand-by for the visit of Marske United and manager Paul Johnson says he has some tough decisions to make.
Before finalising his starting line-up, he will need to check on the fitness of Jack Palmer and Dan Riley.
Seaham Red Star, hoping to clinch one of the three promotion places in Division Two, caused a stir in mid-week when they signed left-back Dan Smith from Dunston UTS. The former Sunderland player, who started the campaign with Darlington 1883, had attracted bigger clubs – but Red Star boss Mark Collingwood persuaded him to step down a division.
He goes straight into the side in the vital clash against Darlington RA, who are just a point above Seaham.
North Shields are also in the promotion mix and face a critical game against leaders Crook Town at the Daren Persson Stadium.
Dean Holmes is an absentee from Graham Fenton’s squad while the fitness of James Harmison, Dan Patterson, Adam Forster and Michael McKeown will be assessed.
IN the sixth round of the FA Carlsberg Vase, Spennymoor Town entertain Gornal Athletic from Dudley and Shildon also have home advantage against Ascot United.