South Shields face the first of two derbies in three days tonight as they take on Hebburn Town at Mariners Park.
The Mariners are hosting their South Tyneside neighbours in the Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup ahead of a clash with North Shields in the League Cup on Thursday, also at home.
The squad is strong enough, and it’s big enough, but it will be a big call for the management staff to manage the team over this busy periodDavid Hall
That is providing the games beat the weather, with Shields’ home match against Brandon United having been postponed on Saturday.
On Saturday, meanwhile, they travel to promotion rivals Team Northumbria in Northern League Division Two, meaning they are readying themselves for what could be a crucial few days.
First-team coach David Hall is confident the league leaders have what it takes to rise to the challenge, though.
He said: “The squad is strong enough, and it’s big enough, but it will be a big call for the management staff to manage the team over this busy period.
“We’ve got to make the right decisions at the right times, and pick the right teams against the right opposition.
“We need to get our heads together and make sure that we keep the squad as fresh as we can for as long we we can.”
Hebburn, meanwhile, drew 1-1 at Tow Law on Saturday, and are 15th in Division Two. Hall believes they will test Shields, but has pointed to the Mariners’ exploits in the FA Vase – they beat three Division One sides before losing a thriller on penalties to Morpeth – as evidence they can cope.
He added: “The next few games will be difficult, but the beauty of it is that the bigger the games and the harder they have been this season, the better we’ve played.
“Morpeth on the 3G pitch was a big challenge, as was Consett up there and Bishop Auckland away. The better the opposition has been, the higher we’ve raised the bar.
“The competitive, hard games that are coming up should suit us.”
For Hebburn, Ally Downey returns to the squad after missing the whole season so far. Former Shields midfielder James Talbot is out with a hamstring injury, while Phil Holgate is expected to play in goal.
Channon North (groin) and Glen Hargrave (nose) are doubts, while Ross Toward is unavailable (work).
Admission prices for the 7.30pm kick-off – paid at the turnstiles – are £5 for adults, £3 for students and over-65s, and £1 for under-16s.