It’s second against third at 1st Cloud Arena on Saturday as South Shields continue their exciting run of games by taking on unbeaten Buxton.

The Mariners – fresh from wins over local rivals Morpeth Town and league leaders Matlock Town – are seven points ahead of their opponents, but Buxton have three matches in hand as a result of their exploits in the Emirates FA Cup.

They reached the first round of the competition on Tuesday with an impressive extra-time victory over National League North side Kettering Town, and Gary Hayward’s men are yet to taste defeat in any competition this season.

Shields manager Graham Fenton firmly expects the Bucks to be in the promotion shake-up, and feels Saturday’s game will be a “great spectacle” between two teams in good form.

Fenton said: “Both teams will be going into it with confidence.

“They’re unbeaten, are on a good cup run and have invested heavily into their team.

“They’ve got some very good players and some very experienced players.

“I went to watch them this week and they’re a good team, so it’s going to be a great spectacle and hopefully we can come out on top.”

Buxton’s strength so far this season has been no surprise to Fenton.

He added: “We knew before a ball was kicked that Buxton were going to be up there because of who they signed.

“They’re very good footballers at this level and they’ve got a good mixture of youth and experience in the camp.

“Facing them is a great challenge for us and I’m sure it will be a tough game for both sides.

“It’s going to be really difficult but the spirit is good, the lads are looking forward to the games and we’re going to give it everything we’ve got.”

Shields are boosted by the return of Ntumba Massanka after he completed his three-match suspension in the 1-0 win at Matlock Town.

They will be without midfielders Robert Briggs (illness) and Callum Ross (suspension), while they remain without the injured trio of Will Jenkins (leg), Jordan Hunter (arm) and Joao Gomes (knee).

The Mariners are hoping to have striker Cedric Main available, with the club waiting on clearance from the league and FA to field the new arrival.

Kick-off at 1st Cloud Arena is at 3pm and the gates will open at 12.30pm. Cash will be accepted at the turnstiles but supporters are encouraged to buy tickets in advance from our website via this link to minimise queuing. Admission is priced at £10 for adults, £8 for students, over-65s and disabled supporters, and £3 for under-16s.

Meanwhile, supporters will be able to take advantage of two Happy Hours on Saturday. From 12.30pm to 1.30pm, and 6pm to 7pm, the following prices will apply:

Birra Moretti pint: £2.50

John Smith’s pint: £2

Foster’s pint: £2.50

Strongbow and Dark Fruits pints: £2.50

IPA pint: £2.50

Small bottle of wine: £3

House vodka double with gun mixer: £2.50

South Shields were held to a 1-1 draw by Buxton at Mariners Park in a wind-affected BetVictor Northern Premier Division match on Saturday.

Playing with the wind at their backs in the first half, Shields suffered an early blow when Warren Clarke fired Buxton ahead just six minutes in.

The Mariners slowly wrestled control and brought themselves back on level terms on the half-hour mark as Nathan Lowe’s angled effort found the corner of the net.

Shields battled against the wind after the break and put their visitors under pressure midway through the second half but were unable to find a breakthrough.

The Bucks held on for a point in a frantic end to the game as the Mariners’ lead at the top of the table was reduced to two points.

There had been doubts as to whether the match would go ahead, with two pitch inspections taking place before the referee ruled it was fit for play.

The wind played a major factor across the 90 minutes, though, and almost made its presence felt as early as the fifth minute when Robert Briggs’ effort from distance for Shields was caught by a gust before being well saved by Grant Shenton in the Buxton goal.

The Bucks took the lead in just the sixth minute when Clarke sprinted clear down the left and his composed finish across goal touched the inside of the post before nestling in the net.

Shields’ response was good and they twice went close to finding an equaliser as home debutant Dom McHale fired over from 20 yards before a Briggs free-kick was deflected past the post.

They almost fell further behind at the other end, though, when a corner from the left by Tom Elliott was blown goalwards and cannoned against the post, with Mariners goalkeeper Ryan Whitley scrambling across his goal.

Shields wrestled control after that and following a period of pressure they brought themselves level in the 30th minute when Lowe pounced on a loose ball and sent a controlled volley into the corner of the net.

The home side went close to taking the lead on the stroke of half-time as Lowe’s strike from distance hit team-mate McHale before trickling agonisingly the wrong side of the post.

The conditions were with the visitors in the second half and they fired the Mariners a warning within five minutes of the restart as Diego De Girolamo’s strike from the left of the box tested Whitley at his near post.

That proved to be a rare opportunity in the second 45 minutes for the Bucks, though, with Shields battling well against the wind.

Sefton Gonzales’ turn and shot was saved by Shenton at his near post, substitute Blair Adams slid a dangerous ball across the area which just evaded a touch and Gary Brown fired over from distance as the hosts increased the pressure.

They were convinced they should have had a penalty midway through the second half when Callum Ross’ effort from 20 yards was blocked by the arm of a defender, but their appeals were waved away.

Buxton had one golden chance for a winner but Whitley produced a fine save and several defenders put their bodies on the line to block shots before Callum Chippendale curled wide from 25 yards.

Gonzales tested Shenton again before the end and Shields were inches away from sealing the three points a minute into stoppage time as Josh Gillies’ free-kick found the head of Briggs and his effort went just past the post.

There was one final opportunity when Gillies got in behind on the right of the box and tried to square to Jason Gilchrist, but Shenton stretched out his arms to clutch the ball as Buxton held on for a point.

Shields are back in action next Saturday when they travel to Gainsborough Trinity in the league.

SOUTH SHIELDS: Whitley, Verstraaten (Adams 42), Baxter, Shaw (c), Brown (Turnbull 78), Ross, Lowe, Briggs, Gilchrist, McHale (Gillies 61), Gonzales. Subs not used: Boney, Hunter.

Goal: Lowe (30).

Attendance: 1,508.

WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.

Buxton are the visitors to Mariners Park on Saturday as league leaders South Shields look to build on last weekend’s win at Grantham Town.

The Mariners are four points clear at the top of the BetVictor Northern Premier Division and know the importance of picking up maximum points against their Derbyshire-based opponents.

Last Saturday’s 3-1 victory at Grantham installed added confidence into the Shields camp and they will be looking to use that to their advantage against Buxton.

The Bucks are battling against relegation and go into the game sitting 17th in the table.

They were one of the division’s surprise packages last season and earned a play-off place before losing after extra-time at Mariners Park in the semi-final.

Shields won 2-1 in the reverse fixture with a late Lee Mason goal earlier this season and joint manager Graham Fenton is expecting another difficult afternoon.

He said: “I’m sure this game will provide us with another extremely tough test, as every game against Buxton has proved to be over recent years.

“They are a well-organised side with an extremely potent number nine in Diego De Girolamo and we will have to be very mindful of his movement and goal threat, along with Buxton’s other forward players.

“They have been scoring fairly frequently of late but we’re sure that we will cause them lots of problems themselves, especially off the back of scoring three goals last week.”

Shields have had to deal with a number of injuries over recent weeks and will remain without Ross Coombe and Luke Daly on Saturday.

They are hopeful the likes of Blair Adams, Arron Thompson, Dillon Morse and Darius Osei will return soon, although it remains to be seen whether Saturday’s match comes too quickly for them.

Jordan Hunter is expected to be available in a timely boost for the Mariners, while Dom McHale could make his home debut after scoring against Grantham last Saturday.

Fenton was impressed with the effort shown in the win at Grantham and is hoping to see similar levels against Buxton.

He added: “We felt the lads did exceptionally well and kept the positivity high throughout the game.

“They penned Grantham into their own half for the full 45 minutes in the second half, hence the fact (goalkeeper) Ryan Whitley only touched the ball once in the second half.

“It was great to see Dom McHale come on for his debut and contribute with not just his goal to put us back in front but also with his general play throughout the 45 minutes he was on the pitch.

“We’re looking forward to seeing him progress over the next few weeks.

“The dressing room was extremely buoyant after the game and we must take this team spirit and positivity through the next 14 games until the end of the season.”

Kick-off at Mariners Park is at 3pm and admission – which can be paid at the turnstiles – is £10 for adults, £8 for students and over-65s, and £3 for under-16s. Discounts are available before midnight on Friday by clicking here.

The turnstiles will open at 12.30pm and the usual Happy Hours will be in operation from 12.30pm to 1.30pm, and between 5pm and 6pm.