South Shields start the new year with a trip to high flying Whitley Bay Rockcliff tomorrow.
Shields were convincingly beaten at Grosvenor Road by Rockcliff back in September, however, an improved South Shields will be looking to set the record straight and start the new year with a bang.
Shields find themselves in 12th place in the Durham/Northumberland Two division, with four wins from 15.
Rockcliff on the other hand sit high in third with 12 wins from 15 games, including the 10-30 win at South Shields, and only five points from a promotion slot.
The away side will welcome back captain Clayton Fox after a three game absence, while Martin Bengston could also be recalled having missed the last five games with a knee problem, providing he comes through training later this week. Mathew Soroka is another returning from injury after breaking a rib in October’s victory at Darlington.
James Pocklington is included having recovered from a chest injury which ruled him out the last game of 2016 at Whitby.
The game comes to early for winger Carlos Mut Morei, who is still recovering from a broken ankle and isn’t expected back until February.
South Shields and Rockcliff have met three times in the past few seasons with Rockcliff winning all the games, despite all been very competitive.
Head Coach Stu Robson said: “It has been great to get the lads back earlier this week and we have been working on areas we feel will be key in our success for the remainder of the season.
“Everyone at the club is really positive and we go into tomorrow’s game in great shape.
“Hillheads has always been a difficult place to go and it is an exciting prospect to be going there; the boys are looking forward to it.
“I don’t know how this group is going to work out over the next five month period, but all we can do is go out and give are all and try to win all the games.
“Our guys have put in a big effort in this division so far, we were always going to be in amongst it, but we have still got a team which can go out and secure our DN2 status. This year was always about consolidating.
“In some ways, Rockcliff have their own battles with being near the top, so it is probably fair to say the pressure is on them to secure a bonus point victory.
“They are at home and they are a solid team. We have got to go there and understand there is an opportunity to win this game, but we have got to match them physically and mentally to stand a chance.”
The game is set for a 2:15pm kick off at Hillheads (NE25 8RW).
South Shields Mariners are also on the road as they open 2017 with a league double header at Morpeth.
The side will travel strong looking to get back in track in what has been a very difficult season in the River Blyth league.
Graeme Atkinson and Alex Roper will continue to run the side, while four of the club’s youth players will make their senior debuts.
The game will also kick off at 2:15pm at Morpeths’ Mitford Road (NE61 1RJ).