‘Inconsistent’ has been the word repeated by Ryhope manager Gary Pearson this season in his programme notes and post-match interviews.

Colliery Welfare sit 12th in the Northern League Division One table on 28 points after 20 games, winning nine and losing 10.

It has been an improvement on last season so far, when Ryhope finished 17th after a relegation battle.

But recent form has been a cause for concern after a good start to the season which saw the club aiming higher in the league, taking 12 points from five games.

Ups in the cup:

One of the highlights of the season so far was the club’s run to the second round proper of the FA Vase, equalling the best run in its history.

Qualifying wins against Northallerton and Guisborough set up a first round tie at home to Harrogate Railway.

This proved to be an absolute rout for Colliery Welfare, they thrashed the Yorkshiremen 10-1, including some spectacular goals from James Ellis and Corey Nicholson.

The draw gifted Ryhope a mouth-watering home game against the well-supported City of Liverpool FC. An estimated 250 fans travelled up from Liverpool and brought some atmosphere to Recreation Park, the visitors winning a hard-fought battle 2-1.

Back down to Earth:

Ryhope were knocked out of the Durham Challenge Cup in the first round, losing 3-1 to Chester-Le-Street, a team in the Second Division.

They faced a similar fate in the FA Cup, getting knocked out by Ashington in the very first round of qualifying.

League form has seemed to get progressively worse throughout the season, following a 5-2 win away at West Auckland, Colliery Welfare went on to pick up only three points from the next five games.

What is left to fight for?:

Ryhope will look to get back into their early season form and aim for a top half finish in the Northern League table which would show significant progress on last season.

However, being far from drawn into a relegation battle and promotion not being a realistic expectation, Pearson’s men may target a run in the League Cup.

Colliery Welfare have made it to the third round of the competition where they have been drawn away to Durham City of the Second Division, and therefore may see this as big opportunity for some silverware this season.

But without the club being able to put together consecutive league victories since August, Pearson will be getting concerned that what looked like a season of progress could become another languishing in the bottom half.