FOLLOWING the midweek programme it is still nip and tuck at the top with no fewer than seven sides challenging for the title.

FOLLOWING the midweek programme it is still nip and tuck at the top with no fewer than seven sides challenging for the title.

Consett are in pole position but their lead is down to a couple of points before the visit of resurgent Bedlington Terriers to Belle Vue Park.

The Steelmen, defeated by a last-minute goal against Durham City in the semi-final of the Durham Challenge Cup on Wednesday, delay announcing their squad while Terriers manager Tony Lowery will need to assess the fitness of several players.

Bedlington gave their best performance of the season defeating Ryton in midweek to just about erase any danger of relegation.

Whitley Bay are second and while manager Ian Chandler will field a strong side at Morpeth Town, his opposite number Jon King will miss several players.

Paul Wilary, Lee Bell, Derek Atwell, Iain Nickalls, Stephen Warwick and Tony Stephenson are definitely out while Chris Rue has only a 50-50 chance of playing.

King is set to hand a full debut to Carl Thorp, who impressed when introduced as a substitute against Dunston Federation.

After playing twice in three days during the week, Dunston Federation visit Chester-le-Street who are now up to eighth. Fed manager Perry Briggs will wait until just before kick off before naming his squad while Cestrians boss Stuart Sherwood has doubts over Josh Home-Jackson and Nathan Fisher.

The game of the day is between fifth from top West Allotment Celtic and Sunderland Nissan.

Celtic have David Potts and Ben Dawson returning and Nissan anticipate Gary Pearson recovering from injury to take his place in the line-up.

Newcastle Benfield, another side who were in action twice during the week, could go joint second if they defeat Ryton. Manager Tom Wade envisages a difficult game since, although Ryton lost on Wednesday, have enjoyed a successful first season in the top flight.

Bottom-six side Ashington take on Tow Law Town at the Ironworks Road ground unable to call upon Gary Cook. Lawyers assistant manager Graeme Foster will give fitness tests to Kraig Wilkinson and Andrew Johnson.

A bottom-four contest pitches Northallerton Town with Seaham Red Star with both sides needing the points in their battle to avoid the drop.

Red Star are boosted by the inclusion of Brian Linighan, Stephen Jackson and Ross Gardner who hasn’t played since being injured for England Colleges in Italy. Billingham Synthonia, who will play Durham City in the final of the Durham Challenge Cup, can not name Mark Casey, Adam Clough or David Abel against relegation-threatened Bishop Auckland while Billingham Town will give a debut to Chris Garbutt at Shildon.

In Division Two, a number of sides are battling it out for the three promotion places.

Norton and Stockton Ancients lead the table on goal difference before visiting fourth placed Marske United. A boost for Norton is the availability of James Milton, Richard Dacombe and Jonathan Dowdon.

Second-top Esh Winning are at second-bottom Prudhoe Town while third-placed Horden CW have a free day.

Although Sunderland RCA are seventh they have games in hand on all the sides above them. They name Wyn Fremlin, Stephen Stewart and Stephen Halliday but Shaun Joseph is unavailable for the game with Crook Town at Millfield.

Jarrow Roofing, already looking ahead to next season, miss the suspended Dean Goodwin at home to Brandon United and Washington have Kevin Dixon banned for their “home” fixture with Whickham which is to be played at the Nissan Sports Complex.



David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer