Match Preview: South Shields vs Skelmersdale United, Evo-Stik North
South Shields are looking forward to home comforts when they take on Skelmersdale United on Saturday.
The Evo-Stik North Division leaders have won their last two games in the league to maintain a one-point advantage at the top.
However, with Scarborough Athletic and Hyde United breathing down their necks, they know it is imperative they continue to win consistently.
Their last outing saw them battle to a 2-1 victory at Droylsden last Saturday on a surface many have described as the most difficult they have experienced this season.
Tuesday’s match at home to Ossett Town was postponed, so Saturday’s game will be Shields’ first at Mariners Park in a fortnight.
Joint manager Graham Fenton says being back on home soil will provide the Mariners with a real boost.
He said: “The lads will be delighted to get back home.
“It’s certainly not going to be an easy game and we’re not taking it for granted, but the lads like to play on good surfaces, which ours certainly is.
“Skelmersdale may be towards the bottom of the table, but we can’t read too much into that.
“Almost every team we have faced this season have given us a real test, and I’m sure they’ll be no different.
“We have to be ready for whatever they throw at us and produce close to our best.”
Shields will again be without top scorer Carl Finnigan, who has been unavailable since suffering concussion against Hyde a fortnight ago.
The striker is expected to return to full training this week ahead of a hoped return away to Clitheroe next Saturday.
Fellow forward Gavin Cogdon, meanwhile, is set to miss at least another fortnight with a hamstring injury, with Anthony Callaghan also still out with a back complaint.
Other players who will miss out through injury include Barrie Smith, Darren Lough and Dan Wright.
Skelmersdale go into the match sitting 18th in the table, and are yet to meet Shields this season.
They have had problems off the pitch, and in November moved to Prescot Cables’ Volair Park after being forced to leave their own home.
Things have started to improve for Skem on the pitch, though.
Their last outing saw them beaten 2-1 by in-form Colne, but prior to that, they claimed a 0-0 draw away to title-challenging Bamber Bridge, who are just three points behind Shields.
Skelmersdale are three points clear of second-bottom Ossett Albion, and so will be hoping to pull away from relegation danger in the weeks ahead.
Shields, meanwhile, have their sights firmly trained on promotion, with a top-two place set to be enough to secure a place in next season’s Evo-Stik Premier Division.
Kick-off in tomorrow’s game is at 3pm, with admission – to be paid at the turnstiles – costing £8 for adults, £6 for students and over-65s, and £2 for under-16s.