South Shields can cut North Shields’ lead with 18th straight win

Wayne Phillips will be one of those looking to put Chester-le-Street to the sword tomorrow. Image by Peter Talbot.
Wayne Phillips will be one of those looking to put Chester-le-Street to the sword tomorrow. Image by Peter Talbot.

South Shields have the chance to cut North Shields’ lead at the top of Northern League Division One to eight points tomorrow.

The Mariners host bottom-placed Chester-le-Street Town, while the Robins are without a fixture.

This is one of South Shields’ three games in hand on their cross-river rivals, but they are determined not to take Chester-le-Street lightly.

The two sides were promoted together from Division Two last season, but have had contrasting campaigns this time around.

While Shields are on course for promotion and are still in three cup competitions, the Cestrians are rock-bottom, having picked up just 15 points so far.

A recent victory over Shildon showed they still possess all the battling qualities which carried them to promotion last term.

They also made life extremely difficult for North Shields in a League Cup tie last month, only being denied a victory by a late equaliser before going on to lose a penalty shoot-out.

Former North Shields boss Graham Fenton, now joint manager of the Mariners, is expecting a tricky game.

He said: “I spoke to the North Shields lads after they played them in the cup game, where they were fortunate to go through on penalties.

“They said Chester-le-Street caused them a few problems on that night, so we’ll have to be at it tomorrow.

“We’re looking forward to being back at Mariners Park on a pitch that hopefully won’t be as boggy or as difficult to play on as Wednesday’s at Newcastle Benfield.

“We just have to go into it with the same mentality we’ve had recently, and hopefully we’ll pick the three points up.”

A victory would be Shields’ 18th in a row in all competitions.

The most recent win was at Newcastle Benfield on Wednesday, when a Michael Richardson brace sealed a 2-1 win.

That doesn’t tell half the story, though, with both sides reduced to 10 men in the match, while Benfield hit the bar with a late penalty.

Fenton is hoping his side will have learned lessons from the game.

He added: “It was a difficult match, and the conditions were far from ideal.

“We were in control and then they went down to 10 men, and the disappointing thing was that we almost switched off then.

“I think we thought the job was done, and they came back into it.

“When you’re up against a team with good players like Paul Brayson, you can’t switch off for a second.

“We said afterwards that it was another lesson to be learned.

“You can’t switch off in any game.”

Tomorrow, Shields are expected to be without Barrie Smith, who was forced off in the second half on Wednesday with a hamstring injury.

Gavin Cogdon is available again, though, having shaken off a hamstring concern of his own.

Captain Leepaul Scroggins remains a long-term absentee with a broken leg.

Meanwhile, Stephen Ramsey is a doubt after being injured in the warm-up at Newcastle Benfield

Kick-off at Mariners Park tomorrow is at 3pm, with admission – to be paid at the turnstiles – costing £6 for adults, £4 for students and over-65s, and £2 for under-16s.