South Shields vs Matlock Town

South Shields take on Matlock Town on Saturday in a battle between two of the Pitching In Northern Premier League’s early pace-setters.

The sides are fourth and fifth in the table respectively heading into the game at 1st Cloud Arena, with a capacity crowd of 300 expected to be in attendance.

Admittance is restricted to season ticket holders in bubble two – those with a surname beginning with a letter between M and Z, as well as those who notified the club they were not attending the previous home fixture against Radcliffe – as well as season ticket holders with surnames beginning with the letter D and L after those letters were randomly selected on Friday afternoon.

Those not able to attend the game can view a live stream at a price of £5 by clicking here. Pre-match coverage will get underway at 2.30pm.

Shields joint manager Graham Fenton has called on his side to rise to the challenge against a much-improved team on Saturday.

Matlock were among the Pitching In Northern Premier League’s strugglers last season but have started this campaign well, and are just a point and a place behind fourth-placed Shields heading into the match.

Manager Paul Phillips strengthened his squad significantly over the summer and the Gladiators are being tipped as potential promotion contenders, so joint manager Fenton knows the sort of test which awaits his side this weekend.

The Mariners go into the game buoyed by Tuesday’s win on penalties against National League North side Southport in the Emirates FA Cup.

That booked a fourth qualifying round tie at home to National League outfit FC Halifax Town next Saturday, but for now Shields’ full focus is on the league.

After coming through a difficult battle against a direct and physical opponent in midweek, Fenton is ready for more of the same as Matlock visit 1st Cloud Arena.

He said: “We are fully expecting a really tough game against a physical Matlock side who have had some good results recently.

“They have brought in new staff and players since we last played them so we will be facing somewhat of a new challenge, but it’s one we’re looking forward to.

“We have done as much research as possible and feel like we have come up with a gameplan to cause Matlock plenty of problems to deal with.

“We envisage that it may be similar to the Southport game on Tuesday in terms of Matlock being a very physical, direct team who put plenty of balls into the box.

“Our aim is to deal with those situations as well as we did against Southport in midweek.”

Shields remain without midfielders Nathan Lowe and Luke Daly going into the 3pm kick-off, with both players still recovering from knee injuries.

Jon Shaw and Blair Adams are battling to be fit for the match after being withdrawn with niggles during Tuesday’s game, while defender Ciaren Jones is in contention after being added to the squad.

Although Thursday’s FA Cup draw provided Shields with another exciting test to come, they are determined not to be distracted from their main aim this season, which is to win promotion.

Games such as Saturday’s will be vital to their chances.

Fenton added: “I’m sure Matlock will be coming here with confidence after their 4-1 victory over Ashton last weekend.

“They have had lots of changes within their club over the past few months and we fully expect them to be in the mix towards the end of the season in terms of play-off places and promotion.

“This will be a really tough test physically and psychologically for us, but we’re really looking forward to that challenge.”