NEWCASTLE Benfield, who are in the unaccustomed position of fourth from bottom, only three points outside the relegation zone, have strengthened their squad ahead of the visit from Bedlington Terriers.
Carl Paterson has come in from Ryton and Crawcrook Albion with Lawrence McKenna moving in the opposite direction. Another newcomer is Adam Donaghey, who was with West Auckland Town.
South Shields are also fighting against the drop and following ten consecutive defeats, are stranded at the basement, 14 points from safety.
“After hammering Penrith 5-1 we haven’t picked up a point and desperately need a win to hopefully trigger off a run,” declared secretary Phil Reay who reports that Gilberto Chapim could be added to Jon King’s squad against Durham City at Filtrona Park.
Only a few weeks ago, Durham were also too near the bottom for comfort but they are now just a point from the middle of the table. Even so, manager Adam Furness claims his side must continue to work hard to ensure they are not dragged back into a relegation dog-fight.
“Since Ian Skinner and I took over we’ve made steady progress but today’s game will be another tough test and we’ll need to play well to take anything from it,” observed Furness.
Peter Glen-Ravenhill’s loan spell is over and he’s returned to Gateshead while the Citizens also recently lost Gary Shaw and Elliott Cutts to Sunderland RCA.
“We are in the market for a couple of new players and hopefully I’ll be able to announce something shortly,” added Furness.
Sunderland RCA have been unable to replicate the form they produced last season, but manager Neil Hixon is still happy with the progress which the club is making.
He said: “We’ve had a lot of changes but now have a settled squad which has been complemented recently by Gary Shaw and Elliott Cutts, who we signed from Durham City.”
The pair, who were ineligible for the mid-week cup fixture which was in any case postponed, are available for the visit of table-topping Darlington 1883 to Meadow Park.
South Shields are rock bottom with two Teesside teams, Norton and Stockton Ancients and Billingham Town, currently occupying the other two relegation slots.
Norton, at home to Guisborough Town, bring in Shaun Clarke, Liam Woodhouse and Jack Proctor. Manager Andy Campbell claims his side has played much better recently, especially last week when they led Team Northumbria by two goals before having to settle for a point.
“It was disappointing conceding a late equaliser but overall the game showed we are on the right track and we can certainly get out of the drop zone. Three points today would be a real confidence booster,” said Campbell.
Billingham Town, who leaked six goals in their last game, face Marske United and the good news for boss Carl Jarrett is that Danny Wray and Nicky Martin are expected to pass fitness tests.
In Division Two, Crook Town have a five points lead going into their fixture at Brandon United.
Second-top Ryhope CW host Whickham unable to name Nathan Johnson, who is suspended, Nathan O’Neill or James Dunn. Manager Martin Swales has brought in Jack Lilley on loan from Gateshead.
West Allotment Celtic are comfortably placed in mid-table before lining-up with Stokesley SC. Manager Paul Stoneman will have a squad of 20 standing-by, including the returning Mark Dummitt.
North Shields could find it tricky against Morpeth Town at Craik Park. Morpeth’s defeat last Saturday was only their second of the season and, with games in hand on all the sides above them, are in a strong position to mount a promotion challenge. The Robins are also eyeing a top-three finish and the good news for manager Graham Fenton is that he has no selection concerns, with Ben Richardson, Philip Robinson and Adam Rowntree added to the squad.
Apart from having Mark Patterson banned, Chester-le-Street have strength in depth for the local-derby at Washington.
“Only a couple of points and two places separate us in the table so it could be an interesting game,” observed Cestrian chairman Joe Burlison.
A blow to Seaham Red Star is the news that Daniel Gray will probably not play again this season after breaking a leg in the recent game against Jarrow Roofing.
Red Star again face Jarrow Roofing, this time on South Tyneside, when they will aim to complete a double. Ivan Stoyanov has rejoined the club for a second spell.