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Make or break for Mowden
DARLINGTON Mowden Park's strength in depth can be judged from their bench as they begin a tough month of fixtures which will make or break their promotion challenge.
They entertain Sedgley Tigers, who are one place below them in National Two North, and the replacements include full back Henry Robinson, the division's leading try scorer with 14 until he was injured three months ago.
He is joined on the bench by South African scrum half Zylon McGaffin and back row stalwart Rory Duff, who makes way for Tongan international Talite Vaioleti to switch from lock to blind side.
Chris Campbell returns to the second row and Henry Sandys at prop, which means Josh Bayford also drops to the bench.
With Gavin Painter starting at full back, Chris McTurk reverting to the wing and Callum McKenzie to centre, Mowden have room for manouevre ahead of next week's trip to Chester. They also have to visit Stourbridge at the end of the month.
Mowden's only defeat since losing the opening match at Macclesfield was by two points at Sedgley, who were going well when they won at Macclesfield but have lost their last three games.
Blaydon have Zach Kibirige available and recall their three England Counties forwards for the trip to National One leaders Doncaster.
The return of Robbie Kalbraier allows coach Micky Ward to take a rest, while skipper Keith Laughlin switches to blind side to accommodate Chris Wearmouth. Gavin Jones is at No 8 with Jason Smithson on the bench after his back injury.
Nathan Bailey returns at full back, so in the continued absence of Simon Barber and Tom Jeffery, Kibirige plays on the wing, where by all accounts he didn't receive a pass in last week's England Under 20s win against Ireland.
Tynedale hope to give a second outing to Newcastle Falcons centre Alex Crockett at home to Esher, who have slipped from second to fourth.
The former Bath and England Saxons player left the field with a knee injury 30 minutes into his Tynedale debut last week, when the 19-10 win at Loughborough lifted Tynedale out of the relegation places.
Scrum-half Matty Outson is available to replace Greg Illingworth, who dislocated a shoulder last week, but star winger Hamish Smales is absent.
Billingham entertain Westoe, who are one place below them in National Three North. The hosts will have their four Durham Under 20s players available ahead of their national shield final against Surrey at Coventry two weeks tomorrow.
The Under 20s's goal-kicking fly half, Jordan Carey, is at full back for Westoe, who again include ex-skipper Gareth Nesbitt at prop.
In North One East Middlesbrough need to win the battle of the bottom two clubs at Sheffield in their first game for three weeks.
Richard Metcalfe partners skipper Rob Bellerby in the centre with Michael Thornburn on the wing, and up front Ollie Heselhurst is at lock with Sean Kay, Tom Fox and Iain Bradford in the back row.
West Hartlepool, at home to Wheatley Hills, have Owen Bennett back in the second row and Scott Butcher on the wing. Colin Cheslin deputises for unavailable scrum half Ryan Painter.
Horden can continue their march to the title by winning at Medicals, while two of the teams vying for the play-off place meet at Blyth, where Durham City are the visitors. Darlington will need to end a run of five away defeats at Gosforth if they are to stay in contention.
Stockton play their first home game for six weeks and will be anxious to complete a double over Novos, having won the away fixture 19-13 in early November. Novos have improved since and are looking to climb out of the bottom three at Stockton's expense.
Full back Dan Phinn and winger Si Crozier are unavailable for Stockton, while centre Craig Slaughter has an Achilles tendon problem. Chris Farrell and Joe Hargreaves return to the wings and Dan Wilson slots in at full back.
Jeremy Good returns at fly half, allowing coach Paul Lee to resume bench duties. Flanker Anthony Parkinson and prop Ben D'Cunha are fit again and edge out Tom Nelson and Mark Conway.