South Shields set for top-of-the-table clash against Matlock Town in Northern Premier League
The Northern Premier League’s top two go head-to-head on Saturday when South Shields travel to leaders Matlock Town.
South Shields will be looking to end their opponents’ 100% home record, with Matlock having won all seven of their matches at Proctors Cars Stadium so far this season ahead of the Mariners’ visit.
That sequence of results has helped the Gladiators open up a three-point lead at the top of the table, but Shields’ 2-0 victory over neighbours Morpeth Town on Tuesday kept them within shooting distance.
They trail Matlock by three points and would require a three-goal victory to leapfrog their hosts after what is both sides’ 16th game of the season.
Any win would be more than satisfactory for the Mariners, of course, as they aim to gather momentum during what is a hectic and difficult run of fixtures.
It could prove to be a crucial period for Graham Fenton’s side, who face third-placed Buxton next Saturday.
For now, their full focus is on Matlock and that bid to end their perfect record on home soil.
Fenton said: “It’s going to be tough.
“We’ve had them watched a couple of times, as I’m sure they will have with us.
“They’ve got a certain brand of football and won’t be easy to play against, but I’m sure it’ll be a highly competitive game and we’ll be trying our best to get three points out of it.”
Shields lost top spot after a run of three games without a win before bouncing back against Morpeth in midweek.
It was a controlled performance from the Mariners which yielded maximum points thanks to superbly taken goals in the second half from Nathan Lowe and Sam Hodgson.
Both players drew strong praise from head coach Fenton.
He added: “Nathan’s whole performance was good on Tuesday.
“Since his injury at Scarborough at the end of August he has been a bit frustrated because he hasn’t had the amount of minutes he’d have liked.
“He had to wait for his opportunity and has worked hard in the background, and he was excellent on Tuesday.
“It wasn’t just his finish for the goal. It was his driving runs, his general quality and how he held his discipline during some pressurised moments.”
On Hodgson, Fenton said: “He deserved his opportunity and was looking very sharp in training.
“If the lads aren’t playing, all they can do is really stand out in training and give themselves the best opportunity, and that’s certainly what Sam did.”
Shields are expecting to have captain Blair Adams available on Saturday after he limped off late in Tuesday’s game with cramp.
They remain without Jordan Hunter (arm), Will Jenkins (leg), Joao Gomes (knee) and Ntumba Massanka (suspended) heading into the 3pm kick-off at Proctors Cars Stadium, which has a postcode of DE4 3AR.
Admission prices are £10 for adults, £6.50 for concessions, £5 for students, £3 for children aged between 10 and 18, free for children aged under 10 and free for those with a valid NHS ID.