DUNSTON Federation, who moved to the top of the table for the first time last weekend, face a difficult test at third-placed Billingham Synthonia who will be looking to bounce back after failing to win in their last four games.
“It’s a vital game for both sides. We are delighted with the progress we’ve made this season and now boast a long unbeaten record but it will surely be put to the test this afternoon,” said Dunston secretary Bill Montague.
A boost for the Fed is the return of club captain Michael Robson to a full-strength squad.
Synners have lost three and drawn one of their last four games, a sequence of results which cost them the leadership, but they are still just a couple of points adrift of Dunston. The Teessiders, though, could be without four regulars with Simon Shaw, Andy Harbron, Nathan Jameson and David Yale who are all struggling to play.
After losing last weekend Consett will be keen to return to winning form when they take on Whitley Bay at Belle Vue Park.
The Steelmen’s midweek Durham Challenge Cup tie was cancelled because Darlington withdrew from the competition. Consett delay selection of their squad but Whitley Bay manager Ian Chandler will hand a debut to Phil Bell, signed from Blyth Spartans.
Another huge bonus for the Seasiders is the return of Lee Kerr but Andy Hay is struggling with a foot injury.
“We had a bad month in October but bounced back to form last Saturday,” said Chandler. “We are again scoring goals and it should be a good clash at Consett.”
West Allotment Celtic are fifth ahead of their home game with Morpeth Town. Kevin Hughes, Andrew Carr and Rob Storey will all undergo late checks on their fitness, but Ben Dawson should make Celtic’s line up.
There will be a minute’s silence before Chester-le-Street’s fixture with Newcastle Benfield in memory of Alan Harbord who died suddenly last Monday. He was a founder member of the Cestrians in 1972.
Josh Carmichael is named for Chester-le-Street who have put Danny Craggs on the transfer list at his own request.
Following an excellent result in the League Cup at Spennymoor Town on Wednesday, Benfield aim to maintain their championship challenge and their chances are improved with the inclusion of Phil Lumsden and Andy Dugdale.
Bedlington Terriers, now off the bottom, could find it difficult at Spennymoor Town who are also in a strong position challenging for honours.
Seaham Red Star will meet Bishop Auckland for the second time in four days hoping to replicate Wednesday’s 4-2 win in the League Cup. Although manager Andy Toman might be tempted to name an unchanged side he has plenty of options with the return of Brian Linnighan, John Guy, Stephen Winspear, Ross Gardner, Josh De Silva and Robbie Bird.
In Division Two, North Shields are confident of another good result when they meet Norton & Stockton Ancients at Ralph Gardner Park.
The new management trio of Tony Woodhouse, Robbie Livermore and Andy Bowman made a dream start, winning at leaders Whitehaven and although they are looking to strengthen the squad, changes are not anticipated.
“The lads were superb last weekend. This is an ambitious club but a sleeping giant and hopefully we can move the club forward – early days, but so far so good,” enthused Woodhouse who, along with Livermore, will continue to play.
Washington lack Ian Dixon and Martyn McGonegal for the visit of Sunderland RCA who are without Lee Owens and Michael Lawson for the local derby at Albany Park.