Bishop Auckland play their first league game of 2018 with some new signings at West Auckland today.

Bishops haven’t played a league game since they were thumped 6-1 at Penrith on Boxing Day, and that defeat prompted manager Colin Myers into strengthening his squad.

He has brought in striker Luke Sullivan, whom he knows from his days at Consett, and scored 28 league goals last season before he went to South Shields, from where he has come on loan.

He has also extended the loan of defender Niall McGoldrick from Whitby Town, welcomed back midfielder Connor McAvoy, who has been playing in the USA, and signed utility man Matty Weirs, who has returned to the club from Ryhope CW.

On his way out is midfielder Andre Bennett, son of former Sunderland defender Gary, by mutual consent.

All of the new signings will be available for today’s local derby at sixth placed West Auckland. Bishops are currently 15th in the table and beat West 4-3 earlier in the season.

West will be without midfielder Alex Francis, but otherwise they will be at full strength. Manager Gary Forrest said; “It’s a tough derby game but we are looking forward to it.”

Meanwhile, Heritage Park will be staging the FA Youth Cup fifth round tie between Middlesbrough and Arsenal next Friday, kick off 7pm Shildon, who lost to third bottom Jarrow Roofing in their previous home game, face Seaham Red Star at Dean Street.

Marc Ellison and Jamie Harwood are both out because of suspension, but manager Danny Moore is boosted by the return of several players after injury, including striker Billy Greulich-Smith.

“Hopefully we can go on a run now and reach our target of 90 points,” said Moore.

Newton Aycliffe, who are fifth bottom and six points above the relegation places, are at Team Northumbria.

Manager Deano Browne said; “We’re looking forward to the game because we haven’t played for a couple of weeks. The lads have trained hard and are well-prepared. We feel as though we owe Team North for the 2-0 drubbing they gave us earlier in the season.”

Sean Tarling, Liam Browne and Alan Harrison will all be missing, while Glen Lane will have a fitness test.

In the second division, leaders Northallerton go to Easington, and they recall defenders Dan Jones and Karl Hewitt and midfielders Andrew Shepherd and Richie Walker.

Second placed Tow Law, who are six points behind the leaders, are at Billingham Town, and they will give defender David Mitchell a fitness test before the game. Lawyers won the reverse fixture 2-1 earlier in the season.

Third bottom Darlington RA go to Bedlington, who are a point and a place above them now after having three points deducted in midweek.

Manager Paul Edwards said; “This is a massive game for both sides, and in which we definitely need a good result. We will be trying to get the three points.”

Edwards includes new signings Michael Joseph, Danny Lofts and Nathan Wilson, with several other players returning after injury.

There’s the second groundsharing derby of the season at Hall Lane where landlords Willington take on tenants Durham City.

Willington, who are unbeaten in their last eleven league and cup matches, will be at full strength, and manager Rob Lee said; “Both teams are in good form. Durham are a very good side who play some good football – we need to be on top form.”

Durham welcome back Ste Malloy and Ross Simpson, while Phil Hayes will have a fitness test. Manager Olly Hotchkiss said; “We really hope that the game is on, because it’s been a frustrating period with the weather. It will be a tough game against a team that’s in form, but we are also, so it should be a great game.”

The first game of the season between the pair ended 2-2.

Chester-le-Street make the short journey to Whickham, and they will give fitness tests to Michael and Daniel Hepplewhite, Aaron Thompson and Danny Naylor, while Aaron Reynolds and Conor Lyons both return. However, Kieron Megran, Josh King, Daniel McGuire and Callum Greaves are all missing.

Manager Colin Wake said; “Whickham gave us a hammering at our place so we go there knowing what to expect, they make it very difficult for opponents to settle into their game and they will be in the mix at the end of the season. We have to be at our very best to get something from the game.”

Brandon, who are second bottom, are at home to Jarrow, and they add defender Dan Madden to their squad.

Manager Steve Skinner said; “We need three points as quick as possible, but every game is going to be like a cup final until the end of the season.

“We need to start making our home ground a horrible place for teams to come to and for them to know that they will have to be on top form to beat us.”

Crook, who are in 15th, are at Ryton and Crawcrook and they will be missing defender Matty Stephenson and Ryan Coles, otherwise manager Chris Lax has a squad of 20 players to choose from.

“It’s a tough game ahead of us on a heavy pitch. Hopefully we can get another win and edge that bit closer to safety,” he said.