South Shields FC promotion race: Predicted results and table and the key men and factors in their favour
For supporters of South Shields FC with that familiar feeling again – of a promotion race getting ever tighter – the question is simple.
Can the Mariners see the job through this year and go straight up OR are they destined for the Northern Premier League play-off lottery again?
Shields surrendered a lead for the third successive game at Morpeth this week – their third outing without a win.
And while they remain top of the table by two points, memories of last year’s agonising failure to clinch the one available automatic promotion spot are looming large.
So, can they go one better in 2020?
Here, we look at both Shields’ remaining league fixtures and compare the current and 2018-19 squads to deliver the verdict on whether Mariners Park will be guaranteed National League North football next season.
PREDICTIONS FOR REMAINING GAMES
8/2/20: Nantwich Town (H) 2-0 W
15/2/20: Grantham Town (A) 3-0 W
22/2/20: Buxton (H) 3-0 W
29/2/20: Gainsborough Trinity (A) 1-0 W
7/3/20: Bamber Bridge (A) 2-1 W
14/3/20: FC United of Manchester (H) 1-1 D
17/3/20: Morpeth Town (H) 3-1 W
21/3/20: Atherton Collieries (A) 2-0 W
24/3/20: Matlock Town (H) 3-1 W
28/3/20: Warrington Town (A) 1-2 L
4/4/20: Mickelover Sports (A) 3-1 W
11/4/20: Hyde United (A) 2-2 D
13/4/20: Whitby Town (H) 2-1 W
18/4/20: Basford United (A) 3-2 W
25/4/20: Stafford Rangers (H) 4-0 W
TBA: Nantwich Town (A) 1-1 D
FINAL POINTS TOTAL: 92
PREDICTED LEAGUE FINISH: FIRST
Shields, despite being three points worse off than at this stage last season (53 points from 26 games), face a favourable run of fixtures against five teams battling relegation and six clubs in mid-lower table.
The toughest tests left will be two games against play-off contenders Nantwich Town, and meetings with title challengers FC United of Manchester, Warrington Town and, in the penultimate game of the season, second-placed Basford United.
But this writer believes Shields will end the season with 92 points from 42 games – and the league title - compared with 87 points from 40 games last season.
And, unlike last season, Shields don’t have the pressure of playing catch up, having been top almost throughout this term.
Certainly, attacking-wise, there is more quality and depth, with Jason Gilchrist - the prolific striker Shields have needed at this level - newly joined by Darius Osei, who has 14 league goals this season and the pace and power to cause any team problems.
Add in Sefton Gonzales and the front-line looks more dynamic.
Shields have also proven to be more defensively sound – conceding 23 goals in 26 games.
Centre-back duo Dillon Morse and Gary Brown have been mainstays in front of consistent goalkeeper Myles Boney, and January signing Wouter Verstraaten and captain Jon Shaw.
And there is one more factor that points to a promotion party at Mariners Park.
The likes of Nathan Lowe are now full-time with the club.
So with the stamina to match their skill levels, Shields remain on course for a fourth promotion in five memorable seasons.