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Mowden gearing up for move to The Northern Echo Arena
DARLINGTON Mowden Park are hoping their pitch will have dried sufficiently to allow them to make full use of the pace in their back three against Birmingham-Solihull today.
Former Scotland Under 20s winger Chris McTurk is at full back with Lewis Johnson and Shaun McCartney on the wings Zylon McGaffin comes straight back in at scrum half after arriving back from South Africa on Thursday, having sorted out his visa problem.
With Yiewsley Drive waterlogged earlier in the week, the squad have trained twice this week at The Northern Echo Arena, which appears to be draining well.
The dead ball areas have to be extended and new posts have been ordered, but everything remains on course for the switch to be made next month.
Also in National Two North, Westoe will be facing their fifth successive defeat at Sheffield Tigers. They hope to be able to recall lock Paul Bird, plus James Clark and Charlie Rayner in the backs. The Tigers are sixth and won 23-18 at Westoe in September.
Blaydon, two points behind National One leaders Ealing, seek an 11th successive win at home to Richmond.
They will field the same starting line-up as in the victory at Tynedale two weeks ago, but are boosted by the return of Jason Smithson on the bench.
The influential No 8 has been out for two months, while another back five forward, Keigh Laughlin, is also fit again after damaging a shoulder in September. He returns in the second team.
Tynedale visit fellow strugglers Sedgley Park without skipper Jack Harrison, who will be out for four to six weeks after damaging a rib cartilage against Blaydon.
No 8 Ollie Stedman was also injured that day but is expected to play a part in a match in which victory would go a long way towards ensuring safety.
West Hartlepool hand 18-year-old Nathan Myers a start in the second row at Percy Park, who lie fourth in National Three North. Another teenager, Sam Miller, continues in the back row after scoring a try in the 21-10 Boxing Day win against Hartlepool Rovers. The only change in the backs sees Tom Armstrong come in for unavailable winger Scott Butcher.
Billingham entertain Penrith and will want to put on a show in memory of club president Ian Brown, who was also a Durham County stalwart. He died on Christmas Day after a lengthy illness.
Penrith are just above Billingham, who will hope for slightly drier conditions than when they scored a last-gasp try to pip their last visitors, Kendal, two weeks ago.
Darlington will be looking for a big improvement at home to Wheatley Hills, who are second in North One East, after losing 85-5 to the Doncaster club in September.
After getting off the mark with successive wins against Durham City and Middlesbrough, Darlington lost at Keighley to fall 12 points adrift of the third-bottom club.
Middlesbrough are determined to improve in the second half of the season, starting with a tough trip to Malton and Norton.
Michael Duffield continues at centre in place of Paul Norris, who is close to being fit but is now working out of the area.
Skipper Richie Barker remains at blind side with Iain Bradford at No 8 as Boro go for experience.
Following their autumn injury crisis, which hampered their promotion bid, Stockton are hoping to be able to select from a full squad other than centre Steve Thornton, who is recovering from a rib injury.
The North Under 18 squad will take part in a Development Day at Newcastle tomorrow. After training at Bullocksteads they will play a training match against a Newcastle Falcons Academy XV at Druid Park (2pm).
The first outing for the North team will be at Rugby Lions on Sunday, January 27, against the Midlands. They then London/South East at West Park Leeds on February 17.
The squad includes: Sean Brown (Mowden Park & Durham School), Dom Butler (Ripon GS & Ripon), Nick Cairns (Prudhoe Community HS & Tynedale), Jonny Coser (Barnard Castle), Ollie Hodgson (Gosforth Ac & Middlesbrough), Eldon Myers (Hartlepool VI FC & Billingham), David Nelson (Durham School), Tom Penny (RGS Newcastle & Alnwick), Aston Whitlow (Gosforth Ac & Alnwick), Will Witty (Norton Coll Sixth Form & Malton & Norton).