AFTER two consecutive draws, manager Perry Briggs is anxious Dunston Federation return to form, but he believes it will not be easy against rejuvenated Bedlington.
The Fed boast a magnificent unbeaten 19 games run which stretches back to last August, but are only sixth in the Skilltrainingltd Northern League First Division.
Briggs said: “We have games in hand on all the teams above us but we’ve got to start and make them count. We’ve conceded four points in the last couple of games so it’s essential we return to winning form as quickly as possible.
“Bedlington are a much improved side and joint managers Tony Lowery and Keith Perry will have them fired up so we’ll need to be at our best.”
Fed have slight doubts over Kane Young and Andy Bulford but expect the pair to be declared fit.
After only just managing to escape relegation last season, Bedlington are almost up to mid table following encouraging performances in recent weeks. With Whitley Bay on FA Carlsberg Vase duty, leaders Consett will go four points clear if they defeat Spennymoor Town in the top-three clash at Belle Vue Park.
Manager Kenny Lindoe, who six years ago steered Brandon United to the title, delays selecting his side, while Spennymoor will have to get along without goalkeeper Keith Finch, Graeme Robinson and the division’s top scorer Jamie Clarke, who have been transferred this week to ease financial problems.
West Allotment Celtic are fourth ahead of their home game with relegation-threatened Seaham Red Star. Boss Gary Middleton is pleased with the progress his team have made and delighted he could have a selection headache since Keith Douglas and Tom Vickers are expected to be passed fit. Rob Storey though is out with a groin injury.
Seaham Red Star have claimed just one point from the last six games, and have plunged to second from the basement. They await news on Ross Gardner and Josh DeSilva, both injured playing for England Colleges in Italy.
Paul Davidson and Kyle Bird are definitely sidelined and goalkeeper Josh Moody has been recalled by Darlington to play in an FA Youth Cup game.
Paul Roddam is pencilled in for his debut and manager Andy Toman welcomes back Brian Linighan and Stephen Winspear.
Newcastle Benfield have steadily climbed the table and are now genuine contenders for the title.
Tom Wade has re-modelled the squad following his move from Newcastle Blue Star but is taking nothing for granted against relegation-threatened West Auckland at Sam Smith’s Park.
He said: “Yes, we’ve done very well recently playing good football but West Auckland are fighting for their lives and claimed a good point earlier in the week at Sunderland Nissan.”
A boost for Benfield is the return from injury of Andy Dugdale, Alu Bangura and Scott Donaldson. Although Ashington seem relatively safe from the drop, they still need to put points on the board and at Billingham Synthonia boss Andy Gowens has to do without David Turner. Fortunately, David Bibby and Ross Atkinson return.
It has been a roller-coaster season for Synners who, after winning 5-0 last Saturday, lost 4-1 in midweek. Their only absentee today is Jason Honeyman.
Chester-le-Street anticipate having Damien Maw fit to take his place in the line up at Shildon, while Sunderland Nissan, on the fringe of the race for the title, host Billingham Town with a full pool of players to choose from.
Several clubs are fighting it out for the three promotion places in Division Two.
Esh Winning defend a four-point lead when they go to North Shields and Norton and Stockton Ancients are second ahead of their game with Stokesley SC, who have Gary Mitchell and Daniel O’Brien back. Ambitious Horden CW this week signed Graeme Robinson and Jamie Clarke, the first division’s leading scorer, from Spennymoor Town and the pair take their place in the squad at home to Prudhoe Town.
Marske United are at Glossop North End in the FA Carlsberg Vase and Crook Town will jump into fourth place if they see off Brandon United.
Team Northumbria cannot call upon James Novak, Richard Carrick or Mark Poolan at home to Thornaby but the trio expect to be fit in time for Monday night’s Northumberland Senior Cup tie with Newcastle United Reserves at Whitley Park.
Washington manager Keith Sheardown introduces Kevin Dixon and Chris Porter, signed from Bishop Auckland, at Jarrow Roofing, while Sunderland RCA are hoping that Shaun Joseph will play his first game for several weeks at Guisborough Town.