Saturday sees the latest international break and many will be off to a local non- league game so it’s about time we caught up with the latest goings on around the North East.

Gateshead live to fight another day in the FA Cup of course. The second round draw handed them a really good tie as they were drawn at home to Charlton Athletic,  who I may go and support just for the Sunderland laughs they have given me. To get through to that game though they have to go and win at Altrincham who really got out of jail last Saturday with two late goals, the equaliser with the last kick.

I hope I’m wrong, but looks like the chance has been missed, but never rule Gateshead out.

Berwick Rangers exited the Scottish Cup as Stirling Albion beat them at Shielfield for the second successive season.

Like Gateshead, Berwick were crushed by an injury time goal which was a totally undeserved winner for League 2 Binos. Aidan Denholm had equalised and the home side wasted a load of chances to win it, only for Stirling to go through in the 93rd minute. Ouch.

In the National League North its largely a tale of woe, Darlington the exception.

The Quakers have bucked the North East trend by putting a decent run together to go two points off the play offs. This after a poor start. On loan Rotherham defender Jake Cooper has made a difference and he scored twice in the latest win, 3-1 at Kettering which followed a 5-1 home win over Guiseley.

Could be dark horses.

Spennymoor have totally imploded and look anything but promotion contenders at the minute. Moors are without a goal and a point in 5 games. The latest defeat at Brackley in midweek 2-0, is straight after a home loss to Alfreton and other defeats at leaders Fylde and a 4-0 hammering at Kidderminster. Pressure on Tommy Miller and something just doesn’t seem right there at the minute.

Similar story at Blyth who’s early season optimism has totally evaporated and Spartans now have a real fight to stay in the league.

The unbeaten start was a nice surprise and most people expected a struggle, but they now lie second bottom with nine points after going nine without a win, including seven defeats.

They lost 2-0 to Leamington at home last time out and its hard to see where Spartans are going to get a result from at the minute. They need a break from somewhere.

Gateshead lie mid table but with up to 4 games in hand over the teams above them. The Tynesiders were well beaten at Fylde in the only league outing in the past 3 weeks but look set to challenge, however they might see a fixture pile up with winter not even kicked in yet. Still the best bet out of all the teams however.

Talking of bets, folks gave up betting on Berwick in the Lowland League a long time ago.

A welcome 3-0 win over Edinburgh University on Tuesday gave the borderers a first win in 5 games since they hit a club record score against Vale of Leithen.

Berwick sit currently 9th and though it remains tight with ten points separating them with second, they have played a lot of home games and need to start putting any run together soon.

In the Northern Premier League Premier Division South Shields continue to be right among it at the top. Leaders Matlock lost on Saturday but Shields could only draw themselves leaving them two points behind.

However it was a point gained at Atherton as Shields finished with nine men. Buxton, who lie in third look the big dangers with three games in hand and having won at Shields a few weeks ago.

You can see a tight finish there but with South Shields being full time, that may count.

Morpeth finally appointed Craig Lynch as permanent manager in late October after completely steadying the ship which had completely hit the rocks at the start of the season. Its only 3 defeats in 13 games in all competitions and Town slowly rise up the table. They also got through the next round of the FA Trophy. A bit of a no brainer appointing Lynch really.

In the East division, Marske United really continue to motor at the top. They have won ten out of twelve and continue to push runaway leaders Liversedge.

Shildon lie in third place which is a great effort in their first season after promotion, they won on Saturday despite playing with 10 men for 79 minutes. That says it all.

Dunston continue to have a great time of it and the great run they are having has pushed them into the play off places.

Sado Djalo continues to impress after moving from Bedlington and Dunston are now only one defeat in nine which included a FA Trophy win over premier league high flyers Bamber Bridge. Hebburn continue to massively disappoint in this league and they crashed to a 5-1 defeat at home to Stocksbridge on Saturday.

Its only 3 wins from 13 played so far this season and with the squad they have its must do better.

Stockton lie 8th after improving their home form recently.

The Northern League Division 1 continues to be its most open in years.

West Auckland reached the summit a few Fridays ago and though it was just 24 hours, it shows what form they are in as they were bottom after 4 games.

West look unbeatable right now but with big tests to come and Consett moved quickly back top and stayed there last weekend as all the leading sides won.

Consett are three points clear after the Sunderland RCA win. The are grinding out results at the minute but after seasons of blowing it in games like that, they finally look the real deal.

Ryhope are massively overachieving having been tipped to struggle and now lie in third place after a 4th win in 5 demolishing Benfield away 5-0. Top scorer James Ellis with three.

North Shields are in good form as well with only 2 defeats so far and with 3 games in hand on West they might push.

Thornaby have recovered from a wobble to move into 5th and Ashington lie 6th. The Colliers have lost two of the last 3 away games 5-0 but have won the last two home games 4-0. Hard to work out. Consett visit on Saturday so we will find out. Those six teams are separated by ten points. Newton Aycliffe have faded badly and have changed manager this week.

Them, plus Bishop Auckland and Northallerton have changed managers lately as the season really takes shape. Bishops finally gave themselves breathing space with a win in midweek but it’s still a dire season from them.

Penrith drop to bottom, West Allotment are looking a lot better now with 4 wins from 5 including at Aycliffe with ten men last week. Whitley Bay continue to slide, a promising start evaporating as inconsistency continues to stop any move higher than 15th . Benfield also lack consistency. They won 5-0 two weeks ago and lost 5-0 this week. They lie 9th firmly in mid table .

In Division Two the real story continues to be the shell of a club which is Durham City. They lost SIXTEEN-one last Tuesday and its to the credit of volunteers they are still going.

They haven’t got a point yet and they probably won’t. A total shame for a club destined for the National League North a decade ago. Olivier Bernard and co hang heads in shame.

Heaton Stannington have had their lead cut to five points after a couple of draws but they look set in concrete at the top. A big defeat in the Vase a few weeks ago in front of 700 shows how far they have come.

Ryton are pushing hard along with Newcastle Uni and Easington have got involved with 6 wins in a row. The Grounsell Park Heatonians though are unbeaten in the league since 14 August and are the team to beat.

Bedlington Terriers and Blyth Town are sliding after poor runs and a word for Boldon CA who have now scored 66 goals in 20 games, unfortunately the 44 conceded isn’t helping. Worth a watch?

In the Northern Alliance Premier Division, Killingworth continue to run away with it another big win against North Shields last week taking them 11 points clear at the top.

Winlaton moved third as cup competitions sort of took over with Blue Star sandwiched in between but a long way back.

Cramlington United have an 11 point lead as well in Division 1 while Stobswood are 6 clear in Division 2.

The wonderfully named Udochukwu Ugochukwu of Morpeth keeping the most clean sheets in the Alliance. Hopefully he rises the leagues and gives commentators a nightmare.

Phew! I could add a lot more meat to that bones but I wouldn’t want to go on a bit. I would never do that (cough)

SCOTT ROBSON