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Big Ben hopes to chime for Mowden
DARLINGTON Mowden Park will hand a first senior start to former Durham School captain Ben Simpson in today's National Two North match at home to Dudley Kingswinford.
The powerfully-built 19-year-old prop joined Mowden last season and made a few appearances from the bench, as he has in this campaign.
He now exchanges places with Dan Miller, who is joined among the replacements by ex-Middlesbrough flanker Rory Duff following his recovery from injury.
Mowden are spoilt for choice in the back row and are giving Graeme Seddon an outing in the absence of Luke Wishnowsky, who suffered a neck injury last week.
Although fly half Grant Connon is now fit, he again has to settle for a place on the bench because of Tom Hodgson's excellent form. Connon's brother, Max, comes in on the wing as Jack Neville is unavailable.
Blaydon's player-coaches, Micky Ward and Hall Charlton, will both start the home match against Fylde in National One as the team seek the win which would see them achieve their target of 14 points from the first four games.
"In this league everybody looks at how many points they need to avoid relegation," said club secretary Jim Huxley. "We are setting monthly targets and it helps not to have too many long trips in one month.
"We didn't play well at Richmond last week and we have to go to Blackheath next week, but after that it's not too bad for a while."
The selection of Charlton at scrum half, with Andy Davies dropping to the bench, is an indication that Blaydon are determined to maintain a record which has seen them beat Fylde nine times out of ten.
Gavin Jones also makes his first start of the season in the second row in place of Sean English.
It's Tynedale's turn to visit London and they are without prop David Dickinson and centre John Neville for the trip to leaders Ealing Trailfinders. Another centre, Harry Mountain, is out until January there after rupturing a bicep against Blaydon.
National Three North's joint leaders Percy Park will be without broken nose victim James Ponton for the visit of Lymm but winger Michael Stephenson returns.
West Hartlepool face another tough match at Sandal and restore lock Michael Gilmour to the starting line-up. Andrew Cheslin has also recovered from his back injury and will be at centre.
Ryan Painter is expected to be fit enough to resume at scrum half in place of Andrew Foreman, who was injured last week. David Heckles is unavailable, so Paul Moss is at fly half.
Billingham, who visit West next week, recall Dave Robinson to the back row in place of Paul Shepherd for the visit of Rossendale. Lock Anthony Rumis is replaced by the more experienced Craig Tennant.
Middlesbrough have re-signed Simon O'Farrell, who was with Westoe last season, but he is recovering from an operation so Jack Bircham remains at fly half for the trip to Keighley.
Winger Andy Micklewright, a late call-up last week, retains his place and lock Lee Theakston returns in place of Ollie Hesslehurst, who has concussion.
Darlington will be looking for their first win at home to Sheffield, who won by one point when they visited Blackwell Meadows for the promotion play-off 17 months ago. Sheffield lie fourth.