South Shields boss Kevin Phillips praises team ahead of Morpeth Town clash
The Mariners are unbeaten in their last six games and could go top of the Northern Premier League if they claim maximum points at Morpeth and leaders Matlock Town slip up.
They have won two and drawn one of Phillips’ first three matches in charge but Tuesday could present their toughest test yet, with Morpeth second in the league’s form guide based on the last six games, behind only Shields.
The Highwaymen were beaten at home by relegation-threatened Nantwich Town on Saturday, but Phillips is expecting a strong response from the Northumberland outfit.
He has backed his team to stand up to that in what looks set to be a red-hot atmosphere.
Phillips said: “I always look forward to derbies.
“I’m sure there’ll be a bit of flak coming our way and my way, but that’s what you play football for.
“The players have shown they can deal with anything and I’m sure a bit of abuse from the sidelines isn’t going to bother them.
“It’s about what we do on the pitch and we’ve certainly got enough in that dressing room to go and win the game if we apply ourselves correctly.”
Morpeth are 11th in the table having recovered from a slow start, and Saturday’s loss was their first in the league since a 2-0 defeat at Shields in October.
Craig Lynch has transformed the Highwaymen into play-off candidates and Phillips is aware of the challenge which awaits his side at Craik Park.
He added: “Their manager will expect a reaction and if you can’t get a reaction against your local rivals, there’s something wrong.
“We expect a tough match and we’ve prepared for it right.
“The good thing from my point of view is that I don’t really need to say a lot to these players because they get themselves up for it.
“We’ve got leaders in the dressing room and players with experience that are constantly talking and helping each other.
“We’re in a good place at the moment.”
Shields go into the game without the injured Callum Ross, but are hoping forwards JJ Hooper and Cedric Main will return to contention after missing out on Saturday.
Kick-off at Craik Park – which has a post code of NE61 2YX – is at 7.45pm and admission prices are £10 for adults, £6 for concessions and £2 for under-17s and those with a valid student card.