STEVEN Taylor is set to play his first game his first game in four months - at Whitley Park.
The Newcastle United defender is fully fit after recovering from a hamstring problem which sidelined him earlier this season.
And Taylor could be involved in Friday afternoon’s Under-21 game against Norwich City.
Jonas Gutierrez and Sylvain Marveaux - who haven’t featured for United since October and September respectively - are also contenders to start the match at the Northumberland FA’s Benton headquarters to top up their fitness.
But it is Taylor who has had the longest absence from first-team football.
The 27-year-old hasn’t featured since the club’s season-opening Premier League defeat to Manchester City in August, when he was dismissed before the break.
And Taylor - whose route to the first team is blocked by defensive colleagues Mike Williamson and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa - knows he needs game time ahead of the busy festive period, when he is likely to be needed.
United manager Alan Pardew has told the former England Under-21 international - and others in his squad who have found themselves on the fringes this season - to be patient.
Willie McKay, Taylor’s agent, admitted over the weekend that the centre-half, having returned to fitness, was “frustrated” not to be involved.
But he added: “Steven fully understands that the team have been on a good winning run, and the manager does not want to change a winning team.
McKay also suggested Taylor - who is reportedly a transfer target of Queens Park Rangers - could be loaned out next month.
However, it would be a surprise if Pardew and director of football Joe Kinnear were to sanction such a move.
Pardew is keen to strengthen, not weaken, his squad when the transfer window reopens in the New Year.
Taylor is under contract at St James’s Park until 2016.
Meanwhile, winger Gutierrez hasn’t featured for Newcastle since early October, when he came off the bench in the club’s league win over Cardiff City.
And midfielder Marveaux - who turned out for the Under-21s earlier this month - hasn’t played a first-team game since late September, when he played in a Capital One Cup tie against Leeds United.