The season is nearing its end with Whitby and Ponteland condemned to relegation some time ago. However, the race at the top is set to go down to the wire. Currently, Durham sit top on 104 pts, West Hartlepool 2nd on 103 pts and Saturday's opponents are in third with 102 pts.
It could be said that City have the hardest run in as the play West Hartlepool on Saturday in a huge promotion clash and still have Stockton to play as well. Northern will be confident that whilst their rivals battle it out they can sneak passed unnoticed. However, with Northern this week and West Hartlepool on the 13th April Novos will have a big say in who gets promoted.
After a week off last week due to a mutually agreed postponement with Rovers the squad is ready to take on the next big challenge. We sit comfortably in sixth position and are in a strong position to have a look at different players in the run in. To this extent, George Waterhouse will make his first team debut on Saturday. The Old Novocastrian has had a strong first season at the club progressing from the third team to a second team regular. Alongside him will be Zach Weatherhead who will be given another opportunity to get some first team experience at loosehead. The front row shuffle sees a recall for Tom Dias who we hope will enjoy Saturday sufficiently to make himself available for the final three games of the season.
A much changed front row will be supported by our heavier second row bodies as second team captain Ian Pratt will partner Kit Sorenson in the row. It is hoped that they will provide some grunt in the pack against a well drilled Northern forward pack.
The back row is at full strength as ex Gosforth player Darren Kelly starts at six. Darren has made a huge impact at the club bringing line out expertise as well as the ability to play in the wide channels and off load. Sean Ramsay is moved to seven, his work rate and leadership has been incredible this season. The pack is finished with the return of Alex Littlefair to the eight position - a role he has made his own over the last seven seasons. The ex skipper has been a true warrior for the club and will look to lead the tackle count as usual.
An exciting back line has been selected with pretty good balance. Paddy Sowter and Lewis Chater have been selected at 9 and 10. The lightweight pair are exciting with ball in hand and will look to attack mismatches around the fringes.
The centre pair have formed a good bond with Tom Winning (Student Loan form Paviors RFC) and Ben Wollerton showing real attacking flair balanced with some hard hitting defence. They will be tasked for setting up play for Shaun Stewart, Tim Hart and Nick Bellamy. The latter moving from flyhalf to have a run at fullback in the hope that he and Chater will help us win the territory battle.
This weeks finishers are Andy Hall who will be given an opportunity to get game time in the front row at first team level. A quality player around the park and he will relish the challenge of taking on Northern up front. Alex Cleminson will be off the bench and into the back row to continue his fine debut season at Novos. Club stalwart James Bass completes the squad and offers versatility and experience when he joins the back three on the pitch.
First team to play Northern at home 1330 meet for a 1500 kick off - Zach Weatherhead, George Waterhouse, Tom Dias, Ian Pratt, Kit Sorenson, Darren Kelly, Sean Ramsay, Alex Littlefair, Paddy Sowter, Lewis Chater, Shaun Stewart, Tom Winning, Ben Wollerton, Tim Hart, Nick Bellamy, Andy Hall, Alex Cleminson and James Bass.
In other matches are our 2's take on Westoe away in the Candy Cup Final and the 4's play at North Shields. A huge congratulations to our 3's last week who won their Plate Final with an incredible win over Blyth 2's last weekend. Very proud of you lads, what a comeback from 21-3 down to win by two points. Awesome job with a special shout out to John Addison and Andrew Croft as team management and Jack Pellew who captained the lads brilliantly.
Good luck on Saturday, see you all at 1800 for speeches. Up the Vos !
Updated 12:28 - 25 Apr 2019 by Chris Ward