Durham City’s new manager Billy Harper admits that he’s taken on the toughest job in the league – but he’s confident that he can turn the club’s fortunes around and escape relegation beginning today away to Bedlington.

Harper was appointed the club’s third manager of the season earlier this week with the Citizens bottom of the second division, eleven points away from safety with just over half the season to go.

Harper, who was previously the manager of Blyth Spartans’ reserves, said; “The target is to stay in the league. The club has some great aspirations for the future, but my priority is to get us safe this season. I want to try and get it right on the field.

“We need to get players in who are ready and able to play at this level, because we need good results very quickly. We have put notices of approach in for several players because I believe there’s a lot of untapped talent out there that we can bring in.”

Harper has backed his judgement by signing Adam Brown, David Gourley, Michael Smith and Mitchell Ventress, with hopefully more to come before kick off.

In the first division of the EBAC Northern League, Bishop Auckland are at home to North Shields.

Midfielder Kyle Patton is missing because of injury, but defender Lewis Gibbons returns after illness.

Manager Ian Chandler said; “It’s another game with three points that we need to keep up with the leading pack.”

Bishops are in fourth place, with Shields in seventh, but Bishops will go into third if they win.

Newton Aycliffe face Whitley Bay at Moore Lane, looking for their first home win in two months.

Aycliffe drew 3-3 at Guisborough last week after being 3-1 up at one stage, and manager Deano Browne said; “We’re looking forward to the game, because last week’s draw felt like a defeat.”

Defender Liam Browne is unavailable, otherwise they will be at full strength.

Whitley parted company with manager Andy Gowens after they lost 4-3 to ten man Whickham last weekend, and replaced him with his assistant Mick Mulhern.

In the second division, Northallerton, who are third, are at home to Ryton and Crawcrook and if they win, can go two points behind second placed Thornaby, who aren’t playing.

Northallerton are unbeaten at home in the league this season, and they have fitness doubts over Kieran McWaters and Kerry Hedley, otherwise they will be at full strength.

Northallerton have won their last four matches.

Chester-le-Street, who have dropped to fourth after a run of three games without a win, are at home to Washington.

Manager Colin Wake said; “We are looking for nothing more than a better performance than last week’s horror show at Billingham. We need to become tough to beat again.”

However, Craig Marron, Danny Hepplewhite, Scott Robson and Jack Oliver are all missing, while Michael Hepplewhite and Dan Candlish are both struggling because of injury.

Willington want to bounce back from last week’s heavy defeat at Thornaby when they face neighbours Crook Town in their local derby.

Graham Lazonby and Jason White are both out because of injury, while they could include a new signing.

Crook have already brought in a new signing earlier in the week, recruiting full back Jamie Harwood who has left Shildon, and manager Jamie Tunstall said; “We’re looking forward to the game after a good win last week. I didn’t read too much into Willington’s defeat at Thornaby last week because they had players missing. It will be a tough test, but derby games always are.”

Striker Phil Caley also returns, but Joe Peel is missing.

Esh Winning can climb further away from danger at the bottom of the second division if they beat Brandon, who will be at full strength with Craig Hindmarch returning to the side.

Fourth bottom Tow Law are at home to Birtley, who are one place above them.

In the other games, unbeaten leaders Billingham Town are at home to Jarrow, and Billingham Synthonia are at West Allotment.