AMBITIOUS Sunderland RCA, who have applied for promotion to the Evo-Stik League Division One North, have taken steps to strengthen their squad to help their bid to end in the top two.
Manager Neil Hixon, who took in the Ashington-Spennymoor Town game at Woodhorn Lane on Tuesday night, has signed Ian Dixon from Bishop Auckland.
“I’ve felt for some time that we needed a bit of experience in the squad, and Ian fits the bill perfectly,” said Hixon.
“He played for Whitley Bay in the FA Carlsberg Vase final and has also been with Spennymoor Town and Bedlington Terriers.
“He goes straight into the squad for Saturday’s game against Consett at Meadow Park.”
Hixon has approached Whitby Town for the transfer of striker Lee Ure. RCA are third, equal on points with Whitley Bay and two adrift of West Auckland Town, who moved into pole position with Wednesday night’s victory at Newcastle Benfield.
West Auckland will be confident that they can take another step towards the championship by defeating out-of-sorts Jarrow Roofing, who have slipped to third from the basement.
Manager Richie McLoughlin welcomes the return of defender David Anderson and striker Liam Robertson, but Alex Benchman is expected to leave.
Whitley Bay face a crucial couple of weeks. Following today’s fixture with Penrith at Hillheads, they twice meet West Auckland Town.
“Obviously, I would like a good result to enable us to keep the pressure on our rivals,” said manager Ian Chandler.
“Next Saturday, we are at West Auckland and the following week have home advantage over them in the FA Carlsberg Vase.
“The next three games are critical and could define our season.”
The Seahorses go into today’s game on the back of an 11-match unbeaten sequence, but a blow is the absence of Craig McFarlane, while Chandler could rest Lee Paul Scroggins. He has been troubled with injuries to both ankles in recent weeks.
Ashington are buoyant. They have reached the last 16 of the FA Carlsberg Vase for the first time in their history and Tuesday night’s superb result against Spennymoor Town lifted them into seventh position.
Although the Colliers are 12 points off the top, only Dunston UTS have played fewer games, and it’s not inconceivable that they could mount a serious challenge for the title during the second half of the season. Manager Gary Middleton is without injured defender Darren Lough and striker Johnny Godsmark at Newton Aycliffe, where Phil Bell will undergo a late check on his fitness.
South Shields include newcomer from Seaham Red Star Adam Drysdale in their squad to visit Norton and Stockton Ancients. The Mariners have allowed Duncan O’Brien to join Wearside League club Jarrow on loan as he looks to return from an injury which has kept him out for most of the season.
Bedlington Terriers’ fixture with Shildon will kick off at 2pm because of ongoing problems with the floodlights.
“We know what needs to be done but because the ground has been so wet we have been unable to get the cherry picker on to carry out the repairs,” reported secretary David Collop. Joint manager Tony Lowery is awaiting news on the availability of Craig Hubbard, Steve Bowey and Tony Shandran, who are all suffering with injuries.
In Division Two, North Shields aim to stretch their unbeaten away record to 26 games when they go to Washington. The Robins last lost on opponents’ soil way back in September 2010.
While North Shields challenge for points in a bid to clinch one of the three promotion places, Chester-le-Street are anxious to improve their position near the bottom of the table when they meet fellow strugglers Brandon United.
“It really is a six-pointer and we need to broaden the gap between ourselves and the bottom two,” said Cestrians chairman Joe Burlison.