Sunderland icon hoping to lead South Shields to promotion with six games remaining

South Shields’ promotion push has reached a vital stage as the Mariners head into their final six league games of the season.

Thursday, 24th March 2022, 1:25 pm

The Mariners are at home to Stafford Rangers on Saturday (3pm kick-off) as they bid to close the gap on Northern Premier League leaders Buxton, who hold a two-point advantage.

Second-placed Shields returned to winning ways with a 4-2 victory over Bamber Bridge last Saturday.

Although manager Kevin Phillips was pleased with his side’s improved showing, he insists the Mariners can and must continue to get better, starting against Stafford at 1st Cloud Arena.

JJ Hooper, celebrating a goal against Gainsborough Trinity, with the new CEFO Ground Stand behind him. Picture: KEV WILSON.

It is just three weeks since the teams played out a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture and Stafford – who recently enjoyed a 14-match unbeaten run – are eyeing a play-off spot in the closing weeks of the campaign.

Phillips said: “It was very pleasing to win last week but that game also gave us plenty to work on, so it has been good to have another positive week in training.

“There are six games left and there are going to be so many twists and turns because there’s so much football to play. All we can affect is what we do, not what other teams do, and eventually it will take care of itself.

“If we can play like we did last Saturday and cut out the sloppiness and silly goals, we’ll come very close to getting out of this league but there’s a lot of work to do.”

Phillips could have some difficult selection decisions to make tomorrow, with Cedric Main a potential returnee after being ruled out of the Bamber Bridge game. Stafford are set to present another difficult test for the Mariners

Phillips added: “The players have already faced these teams and know what to expect pretty much every week but for me, the biggest emphasis is on what we do.

“If we do everything we know we can, do it well and everyone brings their A game, we can beat anyone on any given day.

“You have to respect the opposition though and Stafford will be fully motivated to get a positive result themselves.”

Shields are without injured midfielder Callum Ross (knee) for the remainder of the season.

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