By Glen Robertson
Newton Aycliffe travel to Northern League heavyweights Whitley Bay this weekend, looking to build on two confidence-boosting performances.
Two draws in the past week – both secured with stoppage-time equalisers – were the least Allan Oliver’s side deserved after putting in sterling displays against Billingham Synthonia and Sunderland RCA.
Now the club must look to try and find that elusive victory as they attempt to move off the bottom of the first division, but face a tough afternoon at Hillheads.
Whitley Bay are one of the best sides at this level of non-league football – proven by their three successive FA Vase wins between 2009 and 2011. And Ian Chandler’s side have a point to prove on Saturday after being humbled 4-1 by Hebburn in midweek.
But despite that setback, Whitley Bay are currently sitting in fourth in the Division One table, just one point behind third-placed Bedlington.
They have only been beaten once at home this season – by Ashington back in August – and have handed out a few thrashings already this season. Norton were thumped 8-1 in the League Cup, Marske brushed aside 4-0 and Team Northumbria were hit for six.
The midweek defeat to Hebburn ended a run of five straight league victories and Bay will be looking to make an instant return to winning ways.
The Newtonians will welcome back Darren Craddock to the side, after last season’s player of the year missed the midweek draw due to work commitments. He is likely to return to the defence, with James Oliver moving back out to right-back and allowing Martin Butterworth to return to his preferred midfield position.
Craddock will desperately be searching for a goal, after skipper Sean Tarling broke a 65-game drought in front of goal in midweek – the longest goalless run for an Aycliffe outfield player – leaving the vice-skipper the new holder of the unwanted statistic. Craddock has not scored since Ashington last season, 56 games ago.
Following this game, Aycliffe have three home matches on the bounce (Spennymoor, West Auckland and Dunston) before a trip to face local rivals Shildon on November 10.