South Shields boss Kevin Phillips feels patience will be key as his side look to return to winning ways against Atherton Collieries

The Mariners’ six-match unbeaten run came to an end as Phillips tasted defeat for the first time at Morpeth Town in midweek.
South Shields manager Kevin PhillipsSouth Shields manager Kevin Phillips
South Shields manager Kevin Phillips

The 1-0 loss left Shields second in the Northern Premier League, three points behind leaders Matlock Town with a game in hand.

Saturday’s match will see Shields come up against the team with the fourth-best defensive record in the league, although no team has scored less than Atherton’s 24.

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Phillips is therefore expecting a difficult encounter at 1st Cloud Arena, but after Tuesday’s disappointment he is aware of how important a return to winning ways is for his side.

He said: “It’s about how we react, it’s as simple as that.

“We can’t let one result derail our season, and I certainly won’t let that happen.

“We’re looking for a strong performance on Saturday.

“I’m sure Atherton will be disciplined and their record shows that, as only three teams in our league have conceded less goals than them this season.

“On the flip-side, they also haven’t scored a lot of goals so it all suggests that they’ll be tough to break down and it will be up to us to be patient.

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“We have to make sure we take our opportunities when they come our way.”

The reverse fixture ended in a 1-1 draw in November as 10-man Shields were pegged back late on by their Lancashire-based opponents.

That was a day which saw JJ Hooper make his debut for the Mariners and he could again play a prominent role on Saturday, with the striker expected to have recovered from a thigh injury in time to take his place in the squad.

Phillips is also hopeful of having Cedric Main back involved after he missed the last two games, and their return is set to increase competition for places.

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He added: “We’re almost back to full strength and the players have trained well this week, which has provided me with something of a headache over team selection.

“That inevitably means some players will miss out on Saturday but that’s part of football, and with so many matches to come in a relatively short space of time, the whole squad is going to play a massive part in the weeks ahead.

“To have JJ and Cedric back available would provide us with a very welcome boost, because they’re both good players and I haven’t been able to work with them as much as I’d have liked since I came in.”

Callum Ross remains sidelined for the Mariners, with the match set to kick-off at 3pm.

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Admission prices are £10 for adults, £8 for students, over-65s and disabled supporters, and £3 for under-16s.

Cash turnstiles will be in operation but tickets can also be bought until 12pm on Saturday from Shields' website.