NEWCASTLE Benfield are not out of the woods yet but if they maintain the form they’ve shown since the recent appointment of Steve Bowey, they soon will be.
Until recently, the Tynesiders were far too near the bottom for comfort but they are now eighth from the basement, nine points outside the drop zone.
“So far, so good, but we are not there yet and Saturday’s game at Penrith is another six-pointer,” observed Bowey, who is looking to strengthen his squad for the remaining games of the season.
Dunston UTS are comfortably placed with neither the championship nor the threat of relegation on their minds.
The same cannot be said for opponents South Shields, who are currently 17 points from safety.
UTS boss Billy Irwin welcomes the return of Michael Dixon and Stephen Goddard but will need to assess the fitness of Dale Burrell and Kane Young before finalising his line-up.
Billingham Town are another side in trouble, especially after conceding eight goals – seven of them during the second half – at Ashington earlier in the week.
The Teessiders, who have leaked 104 goals, are again in Northumberland lining up against Bedlington Terriers.
Billingham manager Carl Jarrett has promised changes with goalkeeper Danny Molyneux, Stephen Flockett and Paul Harvey coming into his plans.
Bedlington’s assistant manager Neil Saxton reports that Stuart Elliott, Tony Shandran and Phil Bannister are unavailable.
Chester-le-Street have moved to strengthen their squad because of a long injury list. Manager Colin Wake yesterday signed goalkeeper Tom Orton, who was formerly with Horden CW, defender David Short from Ryhope CW and striker Anthony Burnell (Seaham Red Star). The trio are expected to feature in the home game with Northallerton Town.
Following the disappointment of losing in midweek, North Shields need three points at Alnwick Town to rekindle their promotion prospects, but they need to do so without Michael McKeown, Femi Akinbolu and goalkeeper Michael Robinson, who is replaced by Sean McCaffery.
The Robins could again find it difficult since Alnwick moved off the bottom of the table last week and are outside the drop zone for the first time in months.
Birtley Town boss Scott Oliver reckons his side is now “nearly there” and it won’t get dragged into the relegation dogfight.
Going into today’s game against basement team Horden CW, Oliver said that last week’s victory was crucial to his team’s chances of staying up.
Owen Peterson and Andy Hunter are ruled out, but Chris Smith and Ryan Arnott, who have both been sidelined for some time, are expected to play a part today.
Recent results have lifted Team Northumbria almost into mid-table, and manager Paul Johnson is confident they can maintain the climb now that the majority of university games have been played.
“Their season is just about over, which means overall we won’t be playing as many games which will give us more players to choose from for our ENL matches,” declared Johnson before the visit to Billingham Synthonia, where Lewis Storey, Ben Sayer, Rob Cavener, Tom Davies and Dan Riley come into the frame.
Hebburn Town are not in any danger despite having lost 10 and drawn one of their last 11 games in all competitions.
They made such a splendid start to their first season back in the top flight that they are still well clear of the danger zone before their game at Sunderland RCA, which definitely goes ahead.
The Wearsiders’ fixture with Whitley Bay on Thursday night was called off five minutes before kick-off because an electrical fault was discovered in the visitors’ dressing room.
Ashington will give fitness tests to Andrew Dugdale and James Taylor at Newton Aycliffe and Spennymoor Town, who are fighting for honours on four fronts, miss only Dan Groves against Consett at Belle Vue Park.
In the FA Vase sixth-round replay, Shildon travel to Ascot United following a 1-1 draw at Dean Street seven days ago.