Match Preview: Ashton United vs South Shields, The Pitching In Northern Premier League

Match Preview: Ashton United vs South Shields, The Pitching In Northern Premier League

South Shields travel to Greater Manchester on Saturday as they take on an Ashton United side whose form has picked up considerably over recent weeks.

The Mariners are returning to action after an enforced two-week break following the postponement of last weekend’s game at Stafford Rangers.

They go into the match knowing a win could see them rise from third to first in the Pitching In Northern Premier League, but a difficult encounter is expected against an upwardly-mobile Ashton.

The Robins endured a tough start to the season but have won four of their last five league matches under manager Michael Clegg to climb to 17th in the table.

Graham Fenton knows the type of test which awaits his team at Hurst Cross, but has described the excitement in the Shields camp heading into the fixture.

The manager said: “There’s a real eagerness in the squad to get back on the pitch and play this game.

“Last week was hugely disappointing but the lads have had a really good week of training and are aiming for a positive performance.

“We know it’s going to be very tough with the pitch condition after Ashton’s game against Guiseley on Wednesday.

“Ashton have been on a very good run of form and have hugely improved from the early part of the season. They have climbed the table well over the last couple of months.

“We come into the game feeling very confident after scoring three goals against Gainsborough last time out though and we’re targeting a similar result.”

Shields are only expected to be without striker Darius Osei and right-back Jordan Hunter at Hurst Cross.

Osei is serving the second game of a three-match suspension while Hunter is set to return to full contact training next week as he concludes his recovery from a broken arm.

Competition in the Mariners camp is fierce, which is exactly how Fenton wants it.

He added: “It’s pleasing for us to have an almost full-strength squad to choose from, because we haven’t had that very often so far this season.

“We hope that the competition for places really pushes the standards sky high to keep getting positive results and improved performances.”

Although Shields’ festive fixture schedule is not as busy as it has been in previous seasons, Fenton is well aware of the importance of this time of year.

With the Mariners level on points with second-placed Buxton and just a point behind leaders Bamber Bridge, tomorrow’s game – which is followed by December meetings with Hyde United, Witton Albion and Whitby Town, as well as the New Year’s Day visit of Scarborough Athletic – takes on added significance.

Fenton has backed his players to perform strongly in a testing month of action.

He added: “This is always a hugely important part of the season.

“We don’t have as many games as usual scheduled this time, but it’s always an interesting time to see which players and teams have the discipline and make the sacrifices required to ensure positive results.

“We’ve got a very professional set of players and hopefully that professionalism they show and sacrifices they make will have a positive impact on results over the festive period.”

Kick-off at Hurst Cross – which has a post code of OL6 8DY – is at 3pm and admission prices are £10 for adults, £6 for over-65s, students and children aged 12 to 15, and £1 for under-12s. Admission can be paid at the turnstiles but tickets can be bought in advance by clicking here.

Those who are unable to attend the match can listen to commentary courtesy of the team at The Mariners Live. Chris May will be joined by a special guest for the broadcast and you can tune in via this link.