In-form South Shields face FC United of Manchester in eagerly anticipated clash
Two of the Northern Premier League's form sides go head-to-head tonight as leaders South Shields visit rapidly improving FC United of Manchester in an eagerly anticipated clash.
FC United were relegated from National League North last season and had a slow start to life in their new league, going winless in their first four league games.
They have climbed to 11th after going unbeaten in their last six, though, and are now ready to test themselves against a Shields side in terrific form.
Graham Fenton and Lee Picton's men have won their last five league matches and are three points clear at the top heading into tonight's game.
They are expecting a tough test against Neil Reynolds' team, though.
Fenton said: "We're really looking forward to going to FC.
"I'm sure there will be a big crowd, the atmosphere will be good and it will be a really good game of football.
"I get on really well with Neil, who is a really good character.
"He sets his teams up well to play, and I know they've been playing good football this season.
"They probably weren't taking their chances at the start of the season but recently they've been taking more chances and climbing the league table from the bottom.
"They're improving, so we think it's going to be a difficult test for us, but one we're really looking forward to."
Shields have a number of former FC United players in their ranks, with Nathan Lowe, Jason Gilchrist and Adam Thurston all having previously played for the Manchester club.
Thurston picked up a knock in Saturday's win at Buxton and is a slight doubt for tonight's game, while Gilchrist is also battling to be fit as he nears his return from a hamstring injury.
Lowe made his comeback from a calf injury as a second half substitute at Buxton and so will be in contention to return to the starting line-up.
Fenton is hoping his side can replicate their first half performance at Buxton - and the character shown in the second half.
He added: "We were delighted with the three points and so proud of the lads on Saturday.
"I think it's one of the best wins we've had at the club since myself and Lee have been here.
"In the first 30 to 35 minutes we were so dominant, getting into some really good positions and not quite creating enough.
"We conceded after one of their first attacks, so there was a massive psychological hurdle to overcome then.
"It was a great performance in the first half and we showed good character in the last 10 minutes of it to get back into it.
"In the second half we weren't anywhere near our best, but we dug in, showed real character and came up with the goods at the end to win the game."
Shields remain without Luke Daly (knee) but welcome back Robert Briggs tonight after missed Saturday's game to attend a wedding.
Kick-off at Broadhurst Park - which has a post code of M40 0FJ - is at 7.45pm.