South Shields go into Saturday’s trip to Bamber Bridge looking to strengthen their position at the top of the BetVictor Northern Premier Division.
The Mariners are five points clear at the top of the table following last Saturday’s 4-1 victory at Gainsborough Trinity and will be aiming to continue their excellent away form at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium.
They know they are in for a tough afternoon against Brig, who defeated FC United of Manchester 3-0 in their last outing and have won nine of their 16 home league fixtures this season.
Bali Mumba is in contention to make his debut for Shields after he completed a loan move from Sunderland on Friday.
He is expected to be part of a strong Mariners squad which heads to Lancashire, with the likes of Blair Adams, Dillon Morse, Darius Osei and Arron Thompson all now back to full fitness.
Shields go into the match expecting a difficult test.
Joint manager Lee Picton said: “Bamber Bridge are another side that are quite unpredictable.
“They’ve got the ability on their day to be extremely dangerous so we’ve got to be wary of that.
“We proved last Saturday that we can go away from home against sides that are in form and turn them over and get three points.
“That’s what we’ll be aiming to do again on Saturday.”
The reverse meeting between the sides took place in August, with Shields running out 4-1 winners thanks to goals from Gary Brown, Adam Thurston, Lee Mason and Josh Gillies in the first half.
Admission prices at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium are £10 for adults, £7 for students and over-65s, £7 for Premier League or EFL season ticket holders (who must bring that season ticket with them), £2 for children aged 11 to 16 when accompanied by a full paying adult, and free for children aged under 11 when accompanied by a full paying adult.
Those unable to make it to the match can listen to live commentary on Mixlr by searching for South Shields FC on the Mixlr app or website.
A blitz of four goals in nine first half minutes ended Bamber Bridge’s resistance as South Shields recorded a comfortable win at Mariners Park on Saturday.
The game was well poised before Gary Brown opened the scoring for the Mariners just before the half hour mark with a deflected effort from the edge of the box.
That was the cue for the floodgates to open as Shields swarmed over their opponents, with Adam Thurston doubling the lead before Lee Mason notched the third and Josh Gillies added another from the penalty spot.
Bamber Bridge pulled one back in the second half through a penalty of their own, but were unable to find a way back into it.
It was a welcome return to winning ways for Shields, who moved up to third in the table.
Shields welcomed Thurston and David Foley back into the starting line-up after they recovered from hamstring and groin injuries respectively.
Both teams struggled to find an early rhythm as they contended with blustery conditions which led to a series of passes going astray.
There were half chances at both ends before Bamber Bridge created the best opportunity on 20 minutes when a free-kick from deep on the left found Kieran Charnock in the six-yard box, but he could only volley over.
Shields tested visiting goalkeeper Lloyd Rigby for the first time as Foley came in from the right before forcing a decent save, and just a minute later, they found the breakthrough.
A corner from Gillies was half-cleared and the ball eventually broke to Brown, whose effort from the edge of the box took a huge deflection to beat Rigby.
That led to a barrage of Shields attacks and they repeatedly got their rewards as they put the game to bed.
They had to wait just three more minutes to double their lead as Blair Adams drove inside from the left and played the ball into the feet of Thurston, who drilled it into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
The third goal soon arrived following some superb football from the Mariners as they worked the ball through to Nathan Lowe on the right of the box and he whipped in a tremendous low cross which Mason converted from close range.
More terrific play from the hosts led to Gillies being fouled in the box soon after, and he picked himself up to rattle the ball into the top corner from the spot as the points were made safe.
It could have been five for Shields before the break, but Foley was denied by Rigby after being found by Thurston and the goalkeeper also kept out a piledriver from distance by Brown.
The Mariners went close again seven minutes into the second half as Lowe’s low cross found Mason but the ball bounced just past the post.
Shields introduced new signing Jordan Annear in Mason’s place shortly after, but the visitors pulled one back from the spot when Adams was adjudged to have fouled in the box and Alistair Waddecar stroked the penalty home.
Gillies was denied by an impressive save from Rigby and Annear was inches away from marking his debut with a goal as he was just unable to connect with a ball across the face of goal by Foley.
Rigby also saved from Lowe, who hit the bar in stoppage time when his cross deceived the goalkeeper.
The final whistle was blown soon after as Shields’ victory was confirmed.
They take a break from league action next Saturday when they host Colne in the first qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Hunter (Baxter 46), Adams (c), Turnbull, Morse, Brown, Gillies, Lowe, Mason (Annear 57), Thurston (Briggs 75), Foley. Subs not used: Guy, Alli.
Goals: Brown (29), Thurston (32), Mason (35), Gillies (pen 38).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
Jordan Annear could make his debut for South Shields as they host Bamber Bridge at Mariners Park on Saturday.
The fourth-placed Mariners are looking to return to winning ways after last weekend’s defeat to Hyde United and draw against Scarborough Athletic.
Shields have conceded just one goal in their opening four league fixtures and although they have yet to fully hit their stride, joint manager Graham Fenton has been satisfied with the early signs.
He said: “The game against Hyde produced a disappointing result for us after we felt we had controlled and dominated most of the first hour and just didn’t quite manage to get the lead.
“For some reason we lost our way later in the game, which Hyde capitalised on by scoring what proved to be the winning goal.
“It’s never nice dropping points at Mariners Park and that was a tough one to take having been the dominant team for large periods.
“We were more buoyed by the performance and decent away point we picked up at Scarborough on Monday.
“We were delighted with the general work ethic and application of the players and on another day, we may well have nicked it with the decent chance we had in the final minute, although perhaps that would have been harsh on Scarborough, who contributed towards a hugely competitive game.”
Bamber Bridge have proved to be difficult opponents for Shields in the past, and came from 3-1 down to clinch a 3-3 draw at Mariners Park which damaged the Mariners’ title aspirations last season.
Fenton is keen to ensure history does not repeat itself on Saturday.
He added: “We’re looking forward to what I’m sure will be another tough test, as it always is against Bamber.
“The memories of our draw against them at Mariners Park last season are still fresh.
“There were lots of goals and entertaining football on show and we hope there will be another entertaining game on Saturday, but hopefully we will concede a few less goals on this occasion.
“Our defensive record so far this season has been very, very strong, and we are looking to continue that and add a few more goals at the top end of the pitch.”
Shields remain without the suspended Jason Gilchrist, with Luke Daly also set to continue to miss out with his knee injury.
The Mariners are hoping to welcome back Adam Thurston and David Foley, though, with news awaited on captain Jon Shaw and midfielder Robert Briggs.
Kick-off at Mariners Park is at 3pm and admission prices – which can be paid at the turnstiles – are £10 for adults, £8 for students and over-65s, and £3 for under-16s.
Happy Hours will be in operation between 12.30pm and 1.30pm, and from 5pm to 6pm. Tickets can be bought in advance before midnight on Friday by clicking here.