Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Stl Northern League

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Stl Northern League

Article excerpt

Byline: MALCOLM PRATT

MANAGER Neil Hixon is determined that Sunderland RCA should go into the new year leading the STL Northern League First Division.

The Wearsiders have confounded their critics by staying the pace and, ahead of today's game with South Shields at Meadow Park, lead the table on goal difference from West Auckland Town.

Last season, RCA ended in the bottom half of the division with 51 points, but already they have 52 with the campaign just past the halfway stage.

"We've done really well since day one and are genuine championship contenders. It would be a big morale boost if we beat South Shields and start 2012 at the top," said Hixon.

Andrew Cuthbertson has recovered from an injury which has sidelined him in recent games, but Hixon cannot call upon Steve Jones, Liam Sandiland or Marc McLeod.

After transferring Alex Benjamin to Jarrow Roofing, he is confident of bringing in a replacement in time for him to make his debut.

A big holiday crowd is expected at Dr Pit Welfare Park for the noon kick-off between Bedlington Terriers and Ashington. Terriers joint manager Tony Lowery is looking for his side to bounce back after the last three games yielded just a couple of points.

"We have a good squad here and I still believe we can make it into the top four despite recent hiccups," said Lowery.

Stuart Elliott is suspended, but Lowery is confident of Stephen Harrison and Dean Douglas being available, but John Campbell, Peter Snowdon and Tony Shandran are all rated doubtful.

Ashington boss Gary Middleton, who has guided his side into the last 32 of the FA Carlsberg Vase with an away tie at Newport Pagnall Town, also has selection concerns.

Mark O'Dea, Darren Lough and Stephen Young are definitely out and he will need to check on Phil Bell, Johnny Godsmark, Gareth Rees and Paul Buzzeo before finalising his squad.

There is another local derby at Shildon, who host championship challengers Spennymoor Town. …

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