Preview: Billingham Synthonia vs South Shields
A crucial day lies in wait in the Ebac Northern League Division Two promotion race on Saturday.
Top of the table South Shields travel to fourth-placed Billingham Synthonia, while second-placed Ryhope CW host Chester-le-Street Town, who are third.
The Mariners go into their game six points clear at the top, although Ryhope have a game in hand.
The promotion picture could look a whole lot clearer come 5pm on Saturday, and Shields manager Jon King knows the importance of getting back to winning ways in the league after their 3-2 defeat at Ryhope last Saturday.
He said: “This is a big game for us. We need to get back into the league and get some more points on the board.
“We beat Billingham Synthonia 3-0 in October, but they’re a better side than that scoreline suggests, and they’ve added players since then.
“We’re looking forward to the game and playing on what is a nice surface, which will suit us. It will be a tough game, though.”
King will be able to call upon Ibby Hassan, John Grey and Danny Carson, who were all ineligible for Tuesday’s Durham Challenge Cup tie at Consett. Hassan is in contention to make his competitive debut for the club.
Having suffered two disappointments in the space of a few days, with a defeat on penalties to Morpeth Town in the FA Vase and the loss to Ryhope in the league, Shields bounced back with a 1-0 win at Consett on Tuesday.
They are now hoping to build on that after seeing their 13-match winning run in the league ended last weekend.
King added: “It was great to get the win at Consett, and also very good to avoid extra-time and penalties, which would have been the last thing we wanted.
“We had a disappointing week. The Morpeth game took a lot out of the lads, and then we needed to put the Ryhope defeat behind us against Consett.
“I thought the Ryhope game was just a blip, and the lads responded fantastically in difficult, windy conditions on Tuesday. It was a great second half performance from the lads.”
Shields are expected to be backed by a strong away following on Saturday, and the club’s supporters’ bus is fully booked up. All of those who booked up are advised that the coach will depart Mariners Park for Billingham at 1.30pm, while the ground will be open for those wanting drinks from 12pm.
The Mariners will be without the injured Lewis Galpin for the game at The Stadium, which is in Central Avenue, and has a postcode of TS23 1LL.
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.