The EBAC Northern League is hoping that two clubs will reach the semi finals of the FA Carlsberg Vase for the second successive year when Shildon and Spennymoor play in the last eight today.

Optimism is high that odds on competition favourites Spennymoor and third favourites Shildon will emulate the achievements of Dunston and West Auckland last season and reach the semi finals.

Spennymoor, who are bidding to become the first north east club to reach the semi finals of both the Trophy and Vase, are at home to Gornal Athletic from the Midland Alliance.

Manager Jason Ainsley, who will choose from a full strength squad, says: “This is the first time we’ve been in the quarter finals – it’s the biggest game this club has had in years.”

Shildon lost in the quarters to Whitley Bay three years ago, and are determined to go at least one step further at home to Ascot United from the Hellenic League.

Manager Gary Forrest says: “It’s difficult to compare the standard of our league against theirs. All we can do is play to our best.”

Strikers Billy Greulich-Smith and Ben Wood are both rated very doubtful for the game.

There are full previews of the games in Local Heroes.

Newton Aycliffe are looking to climb further away from trouble in the EBAC Northern League when they go to third bottom Billingham Town today.

The Newtowners hit their lowest point since joining the ENL when they were trounced 8-0 at home by Town in October, but they are a much better side now than they were then, and manager Allan Oliver said: “It’s another big game for the club, but we must do well against the teams around us in the relegation battle. Every game is different in this league.”

Oliver includes Boro youngster Shane Bland, a keeper who made his debut in the midweek goalless draw at Bedlington in his squad today.

Third bottom Town, meanwhile, who are four points from safety and have conceded ten goals in their last two matches, and they expect striker Danny Brunskill plus defenders Danny Wray and Alan Cosavella to return.

West Auckland could go six points clear of third placed Spennymoor if they beat Whitley Bay at Darlington Road, and their only absentee will be central defender Mark Stephenson, who is missing because of suspension. Whitley will be without midfielder Lee Paul Scroggins and Craig Smith.

Durham Challenge Cup finalists Bishop Auckland, who haven’t lost at home in their last five league and matches, face Celtic Nation at Heritage Park, and they welcome back defender Steve Tobin and striker Dan Hawkins to their squad. CN, who include former Bishops boss Tony Lee in their management team, will have a 16 man squad to choose from.

Hebburn, who haven’t won in nine league and cup matches, face Consett. They’ve been badly hit by injuries and suspensions, with Lee Harrison, Jeff Forsyth and Dan Kirkup all suspended while Kieron McDonald is struggling with injury. Assistant manager Dean Nicholson is added to the squad after recovering from injury. Consett welcome back young striker Luke Sullivan, while defender Ryan Bell is doubtful.

Bottom club Norton need to beat Durham City at Station Road to keep their hopes alive of getting out the bottom three. Midfielder Ross Gardner plays his last game for the club before leaving to play in Sweden, while Jack proctor should return after injury. Striker Liam Woodhouse is missing because of a hamstring injury. City could make changes after losing at home to Ashington in midweek. Durham are without striker Scott Fenwick and midfielder Craig Hindmatch because of injury.

Dunston UTS are at home to fourth bottom Penrith, expect to be at full strength except for midfielder Micky Dixon.

Guisborough are at Ashington, who will be without injured strikers David Molloy and Gareth Bainbridge, while another striker Phil Bell, will have a fitness test. Guisborough include new signing Steve Larkin, but they have injury doubts over top scorer Austin Johnson, defender Joel Guy and keeper Ben Escritt. Former Darlington player Josh Gray has been made available for transfer.

Sunderland RCA go to Bedlington, and their squad is strengthened by the returns of Lee Owens, Scott Richards, Lewis Graham and Gary Shaw.

Marske, who had an excellent home win over York City in midweek to reach the final of the North Riding Senior Cup, are at Team Northumbria and manager Ted Watts could be without striker John Alexander, who has an ankle injury.

Billingham Synthonia are at second bottom club South Shields, and they will be close to full strength with Kieran Edwards back in the squad. Shields are 12 points away from safety.

The bottom two teams in the second division, Horden and Alnwick, meet at the Welfare Ground. Horden have lost just once in their last four matches to climb just one point behind third bottom Esh Winning, and have an injury doubt over player-manager Darren Atkinson.

Leaders Crook Town, who lost their four months long unbeaten record in midweek, are at North Shields, who can still clinch a top three spot. Crook will be without midfielder Robbie Bird because of suspension, while defenders Ian Maddison and Ian Bickerstaffe, as well as striker Alex Marshall, are all injured. Shields are without injured striker Dean Holmes, while four other players will all have fitness tests.

Ryhope CW, who are nine points behind Crook with three games in hand, are at home to Birtley, and manager Martin Swales adds first choice keeper Chris Rookes to the squad, while he will give fitness tests to Ross Stead, Clayton Davies and Michael Charlton. Birtley, who are seventh from bottom, welcome back Chris Smith after injury, but John Martin is doubtful.

Jarrow Roofing, in third, have a local derby at home to Washington, and they will be missing 16 goal striker Dan Smart, but Chris Hepple will probably replace him.

Washington hope to sign midfielder Dean Walker from Hebburn in time for the game, while Ross Atkinson and Mark Covell both come into the team. However, Nicky Evans, Michael Rush and Danny Robinson are all missing Northallerton, in fourth, need to beat Ryton and Crawcrook at Ainderby Road, and they will be missing midfielder Alex Caisley because of suspension, while defender Grant Hickman will have a fitness test.

Darlington RA, who have still got a chance of promotion, are at Seaham Red Star, and they welcome back brothers Andy and Aaron Ramsbottom to their squad .

Seaham have dropped badly out of the promotion race in recent weeks, with just one win out of their last five matches, and they have signed former Darlington midfielder Michael Coghlan and former Sunderland full back Dan Smith.

With the help of the probation service, Tow Law have worked hard to clear the snow on their Ironworks Road ground and hope to be able to stage their home game with Chester-le-Street. If the game goes ahead, then will be missing Luke Thompson, but otherwise they should be at full strength. Several players have left Chester in the last week, the latest being defenders Richie Archer and Scott Donaldson. Midfielder Steven Buzzeo and striker Craig Mickle are both struggling with injury.

Esh Winning, who have dropped to third bottom in recent weeks, are at Stokesley, just a place and three points above them. Craig Garthwaite is unavailable, while Darren Morton and Kevin Hamilton return after a month out.

Defender Chris Bivens is missing because of suspension for Stokesley, while they will also be without regular keeper Tom Laverick so Justin Hutchinson replaces him.

West Allotment, will have five players missing at home to Thornaby, who have re-signed their former midfielder Jamie Blyth from Billingham Synthonia.

In the other games, Morpeth are at home to Whitehaven, and Brandon face Whickham.

In the Evostik League, Blyth are at home to AFC Fylde, and Whitby are at Stocksbridge.