HOME BIRDS' VASE HOPES; Minnows aiming for second round Non-league football.
BILLINGHAM Town and Guisborough have home advantage as they bid to reach the business stages of the FA Vase.
In-form Town take on strugglers South Shields while the Priorymen have a tougher task as they host Consett in the first round proper.
After this stage the draw opens out geographically and teams given byes for reaching the latter stages of the minnows' national knockout last year - Norton and Billingham Synthonia among them - join in while the financial rewards increase.
Town will be aiming to repeat the drubbing they dished out to lowly Shields on the road last month.
They cruised to a 5-1 win, a victory that ended a nightmare slide of five successive defeats and sparked a productive run of five wins in seven games that has brought back a smile and some upward momentum.
Revived Town, who beat Whitehaven 4-2 in the last round, saw off Marske 3-1 last week to complete back-to-back derby wins after beating Stokesley by the same score. Guisborough will need to dig deep to get past a Consett side who beat them 4-1 in the league at the KGV back in August that sent them on a three-game wobble.
The Priorymen have improved since that though. Last weekend they easily beat Shields 3-1 away to climb out of the Northern League top flight drop spots.
Town have only lost once in their last eight games, and while they are still at the wrong end of the table it is partly because they have been going well in the knockouts.
They have seen off West Allotment and Penrith so far in the Vase.
Meanwhile, back in the league, Norton host Whitley Bay in what could be a mouthwatering clash.
The Ancients are in fourth spot after a spurt of three wins out of four while Bay are lurking ominously three places and two points behind but with a potentially profitable four games in hand.
A victory would send out a clear message and could boost the Ancients' aspirations for a top four finish this term.
And Billingham Synthonia have a similar test of their credentials as they play host to Dunston.
Synthonia are in sixth spot and just one point behind Norton but will need to be at their best to see off third placed Dunston, still unbeaten on the road after eight games.
Synners are nudging back into their best form and have lost just one in the last five games and that includes an emphatic 3-1 win over Whitley Bay and a 5-1 away day hammering of Consett.
Down at the bottom of the top flight Marske United take on mid-table Bishop Auckland desperate for a galvanising victory.
The stuttering Seasiders slipped to a 3-1 derby defeat at Billingham Town that poured cold water on a budding revival of three games unbeaten that included gritty 2-2 draws at leaders Sunderland RCA and away at Synthonia.
The stumble at Billingham pushed them back down into the drop spots but with the pack tightly bunched above them, victory could haul them up three places - especially as rivals Town, Guisborough and Shields are all on FA Vase duty.
And rock bottom Stokesley will be hoping that their recent inching improvement can take a quantum leap towards a morale boosting victory as they take on Ashington.
A recent spirited upturn has seen them cut the losing margins and they have started to score goals - but if they are to start clocking up points they need to do it soon. They have taken just one point from 16 games and are nine adrift of safety.
In division two fifth placed Thornaby can claw into the promotion spots if they beat West Allotment, in third and two points ahead.
In the Wearside League Redcar Athletic can regain top spot if they win away at lowly new boys Gateshead Leam Rangers.
They are in second just behind Willington with a game in hand.
And they could do with a favour from Wolviston who travel to third placed title rivals Ryhope.
And Stockton Town can edge closer to the leading group if they beat rock bottom Coxhoe.
IN-FORM SIDE: Billingham Town's Nick Martin, in blue, in action against Shildon earlier this season Picture by PETER REIMANN
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|Publication:||Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)|
|Date:||Oct 21, 2011|
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