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UNIBOND LEAGUE PREVIEW.

Byline: MALCOLM PRATT

PLAYER-MANAGER Steve Bowey will take nothing for granted when Newcastle Blue Star renew links with the Skilltrainingltd Northern League visiting old rivals Sunderland Nissan in the preliminary round of the FA Cup this afternoon.

The Tynesiders have made a flying start winning three of their four UniBond League Division One North matches and racking up 16 goals in the process but director of football Bob Morton is well aware Nissan too are in good form.

He said: "Previous Wear-Tyne derbies between the teams were always keenly contested and I don't think anything will change today. One thing's for sure we are treating the game like any other and our manager will field his strongest available side although he cannot name newcomer Stuart Nicholson who has a slight injury."

Nicholson was snapped up this week after being released by West Bromwich Albion where he was voted Young Player of the Year in 2005-06.

During his two years at the Hawthorns he was also on loan with Bristol Rovers, Shrewsbury and Wrexham.

"Stuart, who lives in Killingworth, is another quality signing and it's just unfortunate he cannot play today but one thing's for sure he will form a potent strikeforce with Paul Brayson and Lee Novak," said Morton.

Bowey could name himself in the starting line-up today after missing last Saturday's game and being a substitute on Monday when Blue Star hammered Garforth Town 6-1. Paul Talbot definitely comes into the reckoning but Bowey will need to assess the fitness of Steve Baker before naming his lineup.

Durham City are also in action against former Northern League rivals when they make the short journey to West Auckland Town.

Manager Lee Collings could face a major headache since Jimmy Farrell is definitely out with an ankle injury. In addition, a trio of players are major doubts.

Star strikers Gavin Cogden and Stephen Richardson, together with Shaun Bell will all undergo fitness tests before kick off.

"I could be down to the bare bones since all three lads are really struggling. In addition, it could be another month before Adam Johnston is ready to play," said Collings.

Durham are unbeaten in their first four games in the UniBond League Division One North but fail to score in both the holiday fixtures, and Collings added: "I think we've played some good football and created chances but our finishing has been poor.

Today's tie is a potential banana skin but if we can start converting opportunities we'll be in with a shout."

Collings has made no secret of the fact that he would like to boost his squad and on Tuesday he was spotted at Federation Park for the game between Dunston Federation and Consett.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 30, 2008
Words:452
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