South Shields travel to Bamber Bridge on Saturday as they aim for a return to winning ways in the Evo-Stik Premier Division.
The Mariners are five points off the top after a run of three games without a victory, and leaders Farsley Celtic have a game in hand.
Despite the recent blip, joint manager Lee Picton remains confident Shields have what it takes to clinch promotion.
He was pleased with their performance in last Saturday’s match against second-placed Warrington Town – despite a 2-1 defeat – and is adamant that if that display is repeated consistently, they will win a considerable amount more than they lose.
Picton said: “It doesn’t happen very often after a defeat, but I was a happy manager last week and proud of the players in terms of the character and quality they showed.
“We ticked lots of boxes in the game and it was just one of those days when we didn’t get what we deserved.
“We’re not going to give up.
“We’ve got 12 games to go and our target is to finish with as many points as we possibly can, and we’ll see where the cards fall come the end of the season.
“There will be no giving up from our end.
“There’s still a long way to go, and if we consistently show the qualities we showed last Saturday we still have a great chance of getting out of this league this season.”
Shields and Bamber Bridge last met just a fortnight ago, with Brig battling back from 3-1 down to earn a share of the spoils at Mariners Park.
Picton is confident that should Shields replicate the sort of performance they delivered against Warrington, they can get back to winning ways.
He added: “Regardless of who we’re against, it’s an opportunity for us to again show the qualities we showed last Saturday.
“We’re looking for another really strong performance in terms of personality and hopefully quality.
“If we can do that, I’m massively confident that we can go there and get the right result.”
Shields remain without long-term injured trio Carl Finnigan, Anthony Callaghan and Barrie Smith heading into the trip to 15th-placed Brig.
Josh Gillies is a doubt while Gary Brown has been ruled out with a calf injury.
Dillon Morse and Lee Mason are expected to shrug off knocks to be available, while new signing Connor Bell is eligible to make his debut.
Kick-off at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium – which has a post code of PR5 6UX – is at 3pm.
Anthony Callaghan is closing in on a return to contention for South Shields after almost 14 months out.
Callaghan suffered a back injury midway through last season, and made his most recent appearance for the club on Boxing Day in 2017 against Kendal Town.
He underwent spinal surgery last August and, after a period of rehabilitation, he is now set to make the final steps in his comeback.
Joint manager Graham Fenton is hopeful the 24-year-old will be available for Tuesday’s Durham Challenge Cup semi-final trip to Dunston UTS.
Fenton has hailed the left-back for the way he has handled the frustration of the last 14 months.
He said: “Calla will possibly be in contention to start his comeback on Tuesday at Dunston UTS.
“He has been magnificent throughout the time he has been out.
“He has missed 14 months of football but the way he has handled things has been really impressive.
“We knew he would always keep himself right and work hard, but how he has dealt with it psychologically has been brilliant.”
Callaghan has worked closely with club physio Andrew Morris during his time out.
As Fenton explains, the challenge has been to stop him doing too much, too quickly.
He added: “He’s chomping at the bit to get back playing again, and the challenge with Anthony is to hold him back from doing too much.
“It’s better to have that sort of situation than having to force someone to do things, but it can sometimes be detrimental to the player, so we have to be careful and manage his comeback properly.
“It will be brilliant to have him as part of the squad again.
“We need as many options as possible at this time of the season.”
Callaghan has made 49 appearances for Shields since joining from Washington in October 2016.
He was a key player for the Mariners during the first half of last season, and played an important role in the club’s run to the final qualifying round of the FA Cup.
South Shields Academy kept up their hopes of winning Group C of the ECFA Premier League with a 3-1 win at Queen Ethelburga’s College on Thursday.
The victory set up a title showdown with Tyne Metropolitan College on Monday, with the winners set to be crowned league champions. Should it end in a draw, Monkseaton High School will win the league.
Shields were made to wait for their latest victory, away to bottom-placed Queen Ethelburga’s.
Goals from Will McCamley, Michael Colquhoun and Olly Scott ultimately got them over the line as Graham Fenton and Lee Picton’s side earned maximum points.
Fenton was not overly impressed with the performance, but was delighted to stay in contention for the title.
He said: “It was a positive result for us after a fairly disappointing performance.
“We were up against a hard-working, spirited Queen Ethelburga’s side who caused us some problems on the day.
“We will have to perform better against Tyne Met if we are to get a victory there, but hopefully the lads can improve and get the job done.”
Fenton reserved particular praise for centre-back Adam Onarbay and goalkeeper Aaron Steavens, who was making his third appearance for the academy.
He added: “Adam had another good game in the centre of defence and we’ve been very impressed with him lately.
“Aaron performed particularly well in goal and is doing really well.
“He has played three times for us now and has acquitted himself well in each performance.
“We’re delighted with how he has settled in and with the way he has mixed with the group.
“It’s brilliant to have him as part of the programme.”
The kick-off time of Monday’s title showdown, which will be played at North Shields FC’s Daren Persson Stadium, is to be confirmed.
SSFC Academy team to play Queen Ethelburga’s College: Steavens, Biwer, Lockey, Black, Onarbay, Errington, McCamley, Elcoate, Colquhoun, Scott, Judson. Subs: Patterson, Morris, Carney, Dunn, Ames.