New Darlington RA manager Paul Edwards admitted that he likes a challenge as he prepares for his first game in charge at home to his old club Thornaby today.

Edwards, taking over from Peter Mulcaster who quit a fortnight ago, has one of the toughest jobs in the league on his hands as he tries to keep the RA out of the dreaded relegation zone.

He watched the 4-2 win over Crook in midweek, and said; “I wanted to get back into management after over a year out. I see this as a big challenge on hardly any budget, but I saw a lot of positives in the midweek win. We’ll be trying to be more competitive, and get further away from the relegation zone.”

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The RA are third bottom of the table, two points above Brandon and five above Alnwick.

Newton Aycliffe go to Guisborough in a six pointer just above the First Division relegation zone.

The two clubs were looking reasonably comfortable away from the relegation zone, but suddenly Penrith have launched a revival and climbed to sixth bottom, above them both.

Jarrow Roofing are now third bottom, nine points behind Aycliffe with two games in hand.

Aycliffe boss Deano Browne said; “It’s a sort of six pointer because we’re both very close to each other in the league. We also feel that we owe Guisborough one from our home fixture when they did really well to come back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3. I know that they will be prepared, and they will give us a tough game.” Gav Wilson and Sean Tarling will both be missing because of injury.

West Auckland go across the A66 to Penrith, where they lost in the FA Cup earlier in the season.

West are seventh in the table with seven away wins to their credit this season, and manager Gary Forrest, who will choose from a full squad said; “We’re looking for a strong finish to the season. The lads need to show character after last season’s disappointment in the Vase.”

Forrest will choose from a full squad.

Shildon, who are third in the table, are at home to third bottom Jarrow Roofing, and manager Danny Moore will give fitness tests to defender Mattie Robson and strikers Billy Greulich-Smith and Mattie Waters, but another defender, Marc Ellison, is missing because of suspension.

“We seem to be back where we were in the early part of the season, so hopefully we can put a run together,” said Moore.

In the second division, leaders Northallerton, who are six points clear at the top, are at fifth bottom West Allotment. They will be missing defender Mattie Crossen and youngster Charles Graham, but Aaron Ramsbottom and Dale Elgie both return.

Manager Darren Trotter said; “The 4G pitch means the game will go ahead barring another big fall of snow and we have a chance to put more points on the board and cement our position as league leaders. I would rather have points in the bag than be playing catch up."

Tow Law, who are second, have a local derby at Brandon, and they are boosted by the return of striker Lewis Teasdale, who has scored 13 goals for them this season.

Brandon, who haven’t won in the league since October and have now dropped into the bottom two, include new signings Nathan Stephenson from Newton Aycliffe, Connor Lowes from Willington and Andrew Brown from Seaham.

Brandon manager Steve Skinner said; “It will be a tough game with them flying high, but all games are tough for us with a lot of new faces in the squad or games played to look at things. I feel very strongly though that the team will start picking up points.”

Durham City, who are eighth, are at bottom club Alnwick, welcome Nicky Allen and Ross Simpson back into their squad, but Matty Smith is doubtful because of illness.

Manager Olly Hotchkiss said; “We’re really looking forward to this game because we’ve had so many cancelled. It will be a tough game, but if we perform to the levels we know that we can, it will give us the platform to hopefully bring three points home and climb the table a little bit further.”

Chester-le-Street, who are unbeaten in their last six league games, are at home to Bedlington, but they have doubts over Lee Mole, Andrew Clarkson, Daniel and Michael Hepplewhite, but Aaron Thompson and Josh King both return.

Manager Colin Wake said; “We have enjoyed an upturn in performances and the results have improved accordingly, so we go into the game in good spirits. Bedlington have struggled for consistency, but if we are at our best we will give them a game as we have nothing to fear.”

Esh Winning, who are nicely in midtable, are at third placed Heaton Stannington, and they welcome back Callum Boakes, Chris Mordue and Dan Mann to the squad that lost at Blyth AFC in midweek.

“It’s another challenge against one of the top sides after playing Blyth in midweek,” said manager Tony Boakes.

In the FA Vase, Marske face Hinckley in their delayed fourth round tie at Billingham Town, and Newcastle Benfield go to Coleshill for their replay.