Preview: Billingham Town vs South Shields
South Shields will look to strengthen their grip on top spot in Ebac Northern League Division Two when they travel to Billingham Town on Saturday.
The club’s FA Vase run, as well as the adverse weather conditions, have led to a number of league postponements in recent weeks.
Shields have played just twice in the league since beating Thornaby 4-3 on October 24, but have maintained their winning run in all competitions, stretching it to 18.
Their lack of league action has allowed Chester-le-Street Town and Ryhope CW to close the gap at the top, though, with both sides also showing impressive form.
Chester-le-Street are now just four points off the Mariners in second, although they have played two games more.
Ryhope, meanwhile, are just two points further back, yet have a game in hand on Shields. They have won their last seven in the league since a 2-0 loss at Mariners Park in early-October.
That has ensured the Mariners have been kept firmly on their toes, and they are taking nothing for granted heading into tomorrow’s game at Billingham.
Billingham took a 2-0 lead at Mariners Park in the reverse fixture in August, and only a dramatic turnaround – with Shields scoring three times in the last 15 minutes – saw Jon King’s side claim the three points.
He is expecting another difficult encounter on Saturday against a Billingham side which sits 14th in the table.
The manager said: “It’s going to be a tough game. They’re in mid-table, have some good players and have improved since the start of the season.
“If we go there with the right mentality, which I’m sure we will, I’m confident we’ll get the three points.
“You only have to look at some of our results earlier in the season, though, to see that we do need to approach it right. We certainly won’t be taking anything for granted.”
Shields have trained three times since the 1-0 win at Consett in the FA Vase, having not had a match to contend with. After Billingham, their next fixture will be back in the Vase, against Morpeth Town at Mariners Park next Saturday.
King added: “It’s important we get this game in before the next round next week.
“We need to keep ticking over, and although the training has been good, you do need match practice.
“It’s also important for us to get some points in the bag in the league this weekend, because Chester-le-Street and Ryhope have gained ground on us in the last few weeks with us not having many league fixtures.”
Shields will be without Lewis Galpin on Saturday as he begins his recovery from a broken leg.
Lewis Teasdale is a doubt with a hand injury, while the Mariners are very hopeful that Julio Arca will be available to play after receiving treatment on a dead leg picked up in the Consett game.
Kick-off is at 3pm at the Evolution Arena, also known as Bedford Terrace. It has a post code of TS23 4AE.
Seats on a coach to the game are still available – get the details by clicking here.
Meanwhile, Billingham have released the following parking information…
Coaches will not be able to park directly outside the ground, but there is a parking bay for coaches outside St John’s School, which is just next to the roundabout in Cowpen Lane, while they can also park on Central Avenue, outside of Billingham Synthonia’s ground. There will be a short walk up the bridge, and there are steps down to Bedford Terrace from Cowpen Lane.
Meanwhile, the overflow car park, on the adjacent field to Bedford Terrace, is also expected to be out of use due to flooding.