Atherton Collieries are the visitors to Mariners Park on Saturday (3pm kick-off) as South Shields return to league action.
The Mariners have played just once in EVO-STIK North in the last month because of their involvement in the Emirates FA Cup, Buildbase FA Trophy, Durham Challenge Cup and Integro League Challenge Cup.
Despite that, Shields remain joint-top of the division with Bamber Bridge, kept off the summit on alphabetical order.
Saturday’s match sees two of the EVO-STIK League’s new boys go head-to-head, with the Mariners having won promotion by clinching the Northern League title last season, while Colls did the same in the North West Counties League Premier Division.
Atherton go into Saturday’s game sitting 16th in the table, but a win at Mariners Park could lift them as high as 11th.
Shields defeated Farsley Celtic 4-3 after extra-time in a dramatic FA Trophy tie on Tuesday.
Joint manager Lee Picton is looking for improvement from his team at both ends of the pitch.
He said: “It was a really strange game on Tuesday. We came out of the blocks really strongly, moved the ball around and created some really good opportunities.
“We took an early lead, but in those phases of domination we’ve got to capitalise a bit more than we are at the moment.
“Again we went in 1-0 up at half-time, when really we should have had a little bit more to show for our efforts.”
Picton added: “We then really struggled in the second half, and after getting back into a commanding position at 3-1 up in extra-time, again we couldn’t see it out.
“We’ve conceded 12 goals in our last seven games, which is not like us, and it’s not good enough for us.
“We’re going to have to look at that and do some thinking and hard work around that.
“We might have to go back to basics in terms of making it tough for teams to score against us, because we’ve become a little bit of a soft touch at times defending our own goal.”
Picton is expecting a difficult challenge against Colls.
He said: “We’re finding that, no disrespect to the Northern League, but teams are hanging in in games a lot more often and for a lot longer than we experienced generally last season.
“We’ve got to be better in certain areas, but we look forward to playing in front of another great crowd on Saturday.
“Atherton had a good win last weekend in the FA Trophy, so will be coming with a bit of confidence. We’re going to definitely have to be better in certain areas if we want to get three points on Saturday.”
Last six games (in all competitions)
SOUTH SHIELDS: WDWWDL (Overall league position: 2nd, 30 points from 11 games)
ATHERTON COLLIERIES: WWWLWL (Overall league position: 16th, 16 points from 13 games)
Jon Shaw is a severe doubt for the Mariners, as are Matty Pattison and Michael Richardson.
Shields should be able to welcome back Jamie Holmes, though, while Craig Baxter is hoping to be fit.
Adam Hutchinson and Stephen Ramsey remain injured.
The club would hugely appreciate your support again on Saturday at what is an important league game.
Season tickets and club passes are valid for this fixture, while you can also pay at the turnstiles, at a cost of £8 for adults, £6 for students and over-65s, and £2 for under-16s.
If you have never been to Mariners Park and would like directions to the ground, click here.
Make sure you pick up a copy of The Mariner at Saturday’s match, priced at £2. Included in the 36-page issue are all of the usual features, columns and stats, as well as an interview with Robert Briggs, a snapshot of the 1979-80 season in British football, a look back at how the Mariners have fared at this time of the year in the past, a feature on the club’s former ground at Horsley Hill, and much more. Below is the front cover.