Blank Saturday? Not in the Northern League

Although the 146th Tyne-Wear derby has been put back to noon on Sunday, there’s still plenty of local football taking place at 3pm tomorrow afteroon. The game of the day, undoubtedly, is the Northern League El Clasico, two-time defending champions Spennymoor Town making the trip to Whitley Bay, three-time Wembley winners in the FA Vase. Bay have lost their last two games at Hillheads by a single goal but moved back into third place with a 1-0 midweek win at Tow Law Town. Spennymoor reached their first Durham Challenge Cup final in over a decade on Tuesday night, are undefeated in five games since January’s 4-1 defeat by Ashington, and can potentially move to within three points of the leaders by repeating October’s 2-0 win at the Brewery Field. Expect a 500+ crowd and a cracking atmosphere. Adult entry at Hillheads is £6.

With Dunston UTS and West Auckland otherwise engaged in the FA Vase, the other two teams in the top six face off at Meadow Park, leaders Sunderland RCA – who play Whitley Bay next week – hosting a Newton Aycliffe who are unbeaten in their last ten games. It’s £4 to get in – and around a pound extra for non-league football’s best corned beef slice.

In Division Two, there’s an even better offer at bottom of the table Easington’s home game against an improving Whitehaven side, the first ten people through the gate getting a free pint in the clubhouse bar. Entrance for Newcastle United, Sunderland or Middlesbrough season ticket holders is half the usual price at £2 for adults and a quid for concessions. Bovril – laced with white pepper – and chips are under a pound and the North Sea views come free.

At the top end of the Division Two table, only six points now separate Darlington RA in second from Crook Town in tenth. Fourth-placed Birtley Town travel to North Shields, who are three points back in eighth, while West Allotment Celtic and Hebburn Town – currently seventh and sixth – will be looking for home wins over Chester-le-Street Town and Brandon.

Elsewhere, Division One strugglers Jarrow Roofing – winners at home to South Shields last weekend with a goal from Paul Robinson of 1999 Tyne-Wear derby fame – host Ashington, whose squad includes a whole plethora of ex-Newcastle United players including Jonny Godsmark, Matty Grieve, Liam Atkin, Tommy English and Darren Lough. Teesside has its own derby as Billingham Synthonia travel to Marske United, while Newcastle Benfield – coached by Nolberto Solano, whose goal defeated Sunderland in April 2003 – play Shildon at Sam Smith’s Park (a two-minute walk from Walkergate Metro).

Finally, if you prefer your football free of charge, Northern Alliance leaders Heaton Stannington take on in-form Hebburn Reyrolle in a 2.30pm kick off at Newcastle’s Grounsell Park.

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