Crook Town’s new manager Chris Lax says that he has a big challenge ahead as he prepares for his first game in charge at Jarrow today.

Crook swiftly appointed Lax in midweek to replace Wilf Constantine, who quit last Saturday following the home defeat by Thornaby, a defeat that left Crook in the bottom five of the second division, only two points above the relegation zone.

Lax was previously in charge of Richmond Town, who are firmly in the Wearside League promotion hunt.

Loading article content

“I’m dying to get started and looking forward to meeting the players today,” he said.

“It’s an exciting challenge for me, and looking forward to getting some points on the board. It’s a big challenge, as I know things aren’t going to be easy.”

In the first division, Bishop Auckland are at home to Consett, looking for a victory to lift them out of the bottom four.

Bishops put in a good performance before losing at Shildon in midweek and they will give a home debut to new defender Ibby Hassan, and otherwise they could be unchanged.

Shildon, who came from behind to beat Bishop Auckland in midweek, are at home to Guisborough, and they will be missing defender Kyle May, who was sent off last week at Guiseley, while they are hoping to sign winger Jack Blackford on loan from Hartlepool in time for the game.

“With other teams in the Vase, the opportunity is there to catch up with the teams above us with whom we have games in hand,” said manager Danny Moore, whose side won at Guisborough earlier in the season in the FA Cup.

Guisborough had a good home win over Whitley Bay in midweek to lift them five points away from the relegation zone.

Newton Aycliffe, who dropped to fifth bottom because of Guisborough’s midweek win, are at third bottom Penrith who are four points behind them.

Manager Deano Browne is hoping to include at least one new signing, as winger Josh Gray has gone to his previous club Consett. Striker Matty Pennal is also set to return after suspension. “This is a big game because of our positions in the league,” said Browne.

It’s the battle of the basement clubs in the second division when second bottom Darlington RA go to Alnwick, who are two points below them.

The RA had gone unbeaten in three league games until they lost to Brandon last Saturday, and they have picked up more points away than at home this season.

“It’s a game in which we must produce a good performance and pick up the points,” said manager Peter Mulcaster, who will be without striker Phil Caley Alnwick haven’t won in twelve league matches since August.

Brandon, who are four points above the drop zone, are at home to Blyth, and they are missing Michael Searby and Niall Fingleton, but Kyle Wren, Kris Carr, Luke Thompson and Adam Comby all return. Blyth are seventh in the table.

Fourth bottom Chester-le-Street can climb away from immediate danger if they beat West Allotment, who are level on points with them but have a worse goal difference. Manager Colin Wake said; “We’re looking for another strong performance and to build on a decent showing in our last game. Allotment are like ourselves, they are having the same difficulties as regards consistency. But we go into the game with a little more confidence.”

Craig Marron, Michael Hepplewhite and Brad Thompson will have fitness tests, while Aaron Reynolds is out because of injury.

Esh Winning, who are in ninth place, are at home to Durham City, and are hoping that Gavin Brown and Reece Brown will both return to the squad.

Manager Tony Boakes said: “This will be a hard game for us against a fit young Durham side.”

Durham are without striker Brad Hird because of injury, but otherwise manager Olly Hotchkiss will probably keep the same side that lost narrowly to Heaton Stannington in midweek.

Willington, who are nicely in midtable, are at home to Heaton Stannington and manager Rob Lee will choose from a full squad. “It will be a hard game against a team in form and doing well in the league. If we show the same commitment and fight as previous games, it will be a good game.”