By Glen Robertson
Newton Aycliffe look to achieve back-to-back victories for the first time this season as they welcome Team Northumbria to Moore Lane Park.
The Newtonians pulled off a superb 5-0 victory away at Norton & Stockton Ancients in a must win-encounter, and can now move out of the bottom three if they can win again on Saturday.
Allan Oliver’s side are likely to be without Mark Peck, who has a hand injury, while John Close is still struggling to be fit after a quad problem. Stephen Gibson will look to make his second home debut, after rejoining from Dunston and playing the last 12 minutes of Wednesday’s victory.
Oliver has to choose whether to stick with the 4-4-2 that saw front duo Fred Woodhouse and Danny Earl combine so dangerously at Norton, or return to the 4-3-3 that beat West Auckland and ran Shildon and Dunston so close. He’s certainly not stuck for options after having players with the talent of Gibson, Tom Hinchley, Paul Broom and Martin Butterworth on the substitute’s bench in midweek.
TN are six places and seven points above the Royal Blues in the table, and have already beaten Aycliffe this campaign. Back in August they ran out 3-0 winners at Coach Lane, as the Newtonians struggled in the early stages of the season.
But the team that represents Northumbria University have struggled of late, with only one win in their last six matches.
In the Northern League form table, TN currently sit second bottom, with only South Shields below them. Aycliffe, meanwhile, are 12th despite enduring a hugely difficult run of fixtures.
TN have scored just twice in those games – both 1-1 draws, against Guisborough and Newcastle Benfield – while Whitley Bay put six past the, and Marske scored four.
But they did overcome Guisborough on Monday night in the Brooks Mileson League Cup, as the holders prevailed 8-7 on penalties. Goalkeeper Andrew Jennison was the hero, saving a spot-kick before converting the winning kick himself.
His next task will be keeping out a revitalised Aycliffe front-line. As ex-Hartlepool United and current Norton keeper Jim Provett will testify, that’s easier said than done.
The game kicks off at Moore Lane Park at 3pm, admission £5 adults £3 concessions.