Crook manager Gary Pearson says that the next two games against Morpeth are crucial for his team’s promotion chances.

Crook have motored up the table in recent weeks thanks to 13 successive wins, and they’re up against a Morpeth team which is unbeaten away from home all season. After today, the return game is at Craik Park on Wednesday night, and Pearson said: “They are two huge games against a really good Morpeth side, but we have been playing some excellent football recently.”

Pearson’s biggest injury doubt is over top scorer Warren Byrne, who with defenders Ian Maddison and Dave Gordon, will have a fitness test.

There’s another big match at the top of the second division between North Shields and Ryhope CW. Shields, who are unbeaten in their last ten matches , are missing Ben Richardson because of suspension and striker Andy Hay because of suspension.

Ryhope include new loan signing Jack Lilley from Gateshead, and he is added to what is virtually a full squad, depending on fitness tests to James Dunn and Nathan Johnson. Shields are hoping to stage the game after removing the concrete that was placed by vandals inside the goal sockets on Tuesday night.

In the first division, Spennymoor have the opportunity to reduce Darlington’s lead to six points with four games in hand away to Billingham Synthonia, whom they have already beaten twice this season in league and Vase. Midfielder Lewis Dodds returns after suspension, but central defender Micky Laws is banned for one match.

Synners add defenders Dan McWilliams and David Abel, as well as winger Dan Johnson, to the squad that scraped past Seaton Carew in midweek.

The most anticipated game of the day is the local derby between Shildon and Bishop Auckland, with both teams chasing a top three place.

However, Shildon are badly hit by injuries, with striker Ben Wood the latest player to be added to a long injury list, while another striker, Sam Garvie, will have a fitness test. Bishops’ striker Andy Johnson has a broken nose and will probably wear a protective mask, otherwise manager Colin Myers will choose from a full strength squad.

West Auckland, who are third, are at home to Marske United, and manager Peter Dixon will choose from a squad of 14 players, as midfielder Adam Rundle has now departed for Ireland. Marske manager Ted Watts also has a full squad to choose from.

Whitley Bay, who have had their last two matches postponed, are at home to Hebburn, and manager Ian Chandler will have a full squad to choose from now that striker Ash Davis has recovered from injury. Whitley have 25 league games still to play. Hebburn add seven players to the squad that lost to Durham in the Durham Challenge Cup in midweek, but defender Lee Harrison is suspended.

Dunston, who suffered their first defeat in three months in midweek against Gateshead, are at Bedlington, and they welcome back striker Steve Goddard and defender Steve Pickering back into their squad. Bedlington had an excellent midweek home win over Newcastle United Reserves in the Northumberland Senior Cup.

The battle to avoid relegation is getting more intense. Durham City, who are in 16th place bottom, are at home to third bottom Billingham Town, eight points below them. City will give top scorer Scott Fenwick a fitness test, while Ian Ward, Ricky Fenwick and Peter Ravenhill all return. Town will probably be without centre half Danny Wray, while strikers Nicky Martin and Micky Dunwell will both have fitness tests. However, defenders Jamie Middleton and James Crossman are likely to return.

Newton Aycliffe hope to continue their climb away from the drop at home to Sunderland RCA, and they are missing defender Mark Peck and midfielder Sean Tarling because of suspension, but another midfielder, Chris Hughes, returns. The RCA include much travelled striker Jamie Clarke, signed from Whitby, while they will give midfielder Scott Richards a fitness test. Nick Kane and Ross Preston are both missing.

Newcastle Benfield have slipped into trouble recently, and they’re at home to Ashington. Manager Anthony Woodhouse is hoping to bring in at least four new signings, while defender Luke Gilhespy and striker Dave Southern will both have fitness tests. Ashington include new signing Glen Taylor, who has completed his return from Spennymoor, while striker Phil Bell returns after injury.

Second bottom Norton are away to Team Northumbria, and midfielder Shaun Clarke returns to the squad for the first time in two months after injury, while keeper Jim Provett returns. Jack Proctor and Liam Woodhouse will both have fitness tests.

In the other game, Guisborough are at home to Celtic Nation, and they will be missing keeper Ben Escritt and defender Mark Casey, but top scorer Austin Johnston and defender Joe Guy both return. Following their midweek postponement, CN still have 28 league games to play. Manager Steve Skinner will give fitness tests to former Darlington players Jeff Smith and Graeme Lee.

In the other second division games, Seaham Red Star can keep the pressure on the top two in their home game against Thornaby.

Seaham are currently eight points behind second placed Ryhope, but they will be without defender Danny Gray who broke his leg in midweek, while Peter Bryson and Kris Goss face late fitness tests. However, five other players are added to the squad after they missed the midweek DCC win over Jarrow Roofing. Thornaby hope to have three new signings in their squad, while Liam O’Mahoney and Michael Joseph both return after suspension.

Northallerton, who have slipped up in their last two away league games, are at Esh Winning, and they welcome back keeper James Briggs after three months out because of injury, as well as strikers Wayne Gredziak and Adam Emson. Esh have signed full back Darren Morton from Middlesbrough, and keeper Tom Courtney from South Shields.

Darlington RA, who have had a mixed week of results, are at Tow Law and need to win to keep their diminishing promotion hopes alive. Manager Nick Harrison will choose from a full squad. Lawyers, who broke their home duck lat week, hope to be unchanged for the third successive game, but they could include a new signing.

Jarrow Roofing, who are fifth, are at bottom club Alnwick, and they add strikers Liam McBryde and Dan Smart to their squad, while midfielder Andy Soulsby returns.

Stokesley will give return debuts to two players , Nathan Porritt and Ben Bonner, for their home game against Washington. Former Boro player Porritt has been at Celtic Nation, and Bonner at Thornaby. Washington are missing their top scorer Lee Hamilton, as well as Alan Oliver and Mark Patterson, but Nicky Evans and Mark Covell both return.

Second bottom Horden are at home to West Allotment, and new manager Darren Atkinson will give full back John Pyle a fitness test, while striker Peter Crawford returns. They have also signed keeper Phil Naisbett from Shildon, and he will also be assistant manager. Allotment are playing their second game in two days, after playing at Brandon on Thursday night.

Chester-le-Street are at Ryton and Crawcrook, and will be missing Scott Donaldson and Michael Robson.

Birtley face Brandon in a game between two clubs battling against relegation, and Birtley manager Scott Oliver is without injured keeper Andy Hunter, so Andy Mallinson replaces him.

In the other game, Whickham are at home to Whitehaven.

In the Evostik League, Whitby have a home game against North Ferriby who are seven points clear at the top, and Blyth are away to Chorley.