South Shields travel to Hyde United on Tuesday in a huge clash between the top two in the Evo-Stik North Division.
The Mariners lead Hyde by three points going into the match at Ewen Fields.
The winner of the match will end the night top of the league, with Shields hoping to open up a six-point advantage over the Tigers.
Shields go into the game on the back of a hard-fought 1-0 win at Clitheroe on Saturday.
Joint manager Graham Fenton is expecting a different kind of test on Hyde’s 3G pitch.
He said: “It will be a different surface, and probably a completely different game.
“We showed our true grit, determination, togetherness and that side of the game on Saturday.
“We’re on a good surface on Tuesday and it’s going to be difficult, because their home form is magnificent.
“We know it’s going to be tough, but we’ll be able to get back to our normal footballing selves and try to play some decent stuff.”
The teams met in the reverse fixture at Mariners Park less than four weeks ago, with Shields running out 3-0 winners.
Fenton added: “We had the chance to look at them and they had a look at us quite recently.
“They might change a few things and we’ll look at where we might be able to exploit them.
“We had a strong performance against them last time and will be looking for exactly the same again.”
Shields are hoping to welcome back Carl Finnigan, Michael Richardson, Jamie Holmes and Matty Pattison for the 7.45pm kick-off.
However, Gavin Cogdon and Anthony Callaghan will again miss out with hamstring and back injuries respectively.
South Shields produced a hugely impressive display as they brushed aside promotion rivals Hyde United with a 3-0 win at a raucous Mariners Park.
Goals from Jamie Holmes, Graeme Armstrong and Dillon Morse secured a vital victory for the Mariners against a Hyde side which started the day just three points behind them.
The game was marred by a head injury suffered by Shields striker Carl Finnigan in the early stages, but his team-mates went on to do him proud with a fine performance in front of a crowd of 1,751.
Shields made three changes from the team which drew 0-0 against Tadcaster Albion four days earlier, with Craig Baxter, Robert Briggs and Holmes brought in.
It was a pressure game for the home side, who knew that a defeat would see Hyde leapfrog them in the table.
However, they showed no sign of nerves as they got on top from the early stages.
That was despite two early sighters of goal for Hyde, with Big Khamsuk sending an effort over from distance before a Jon Shaw clearance cannoned against the leg of Matthew Beadle and into the arms of a grateful Liam Connell.
At the other end, Finnigan was looking dangerous as Shields attempted to play him in. A Briggs through ball had just too much on it as goalkeeper Peter Crook came out well to gather.
Finnigan again raced onto a ball over the top soon after – this time from Julio Arca – but when he was beaten to it by Crook, the players collided and the Shields man came off worst, taking an accidental knee to the head.
After receiving eight minutes of treatment, he was stretchered off, leaving Shields without their two top goalscorers this season, with Gavin Cogdon also unavailable with a hamstring injury.
If anything, the sickening injury suffered by Finnigan appeared to inspire his team-mates left on the field.
Everything they did was with real purpose, and they got on top of their in-form opponents with a gutsy and determined display.
They threatened a breakthrough when Baxter delivered a decent ball on the right and Sunderland loanee Dan Wright chested it down before firing over.
The Mariners didn’t have to wait too much longer, though. Briggs played a short corner to Wright and received it back before swinging in a perfect delivery from the left which Holmes acrobatically and impressively headed in.
Shields were playing some terrific football despite kicking into a strong wind, and almost received a second reward when Baxter played the ball back to Briggs, whose effort was well blocked.
Hyde did have some opportunities in the remainder of the first half, with Tyrone Gay heading wide from a Janni Lipka free-kick, Connell punching over a Ross Daly cross-shot and Baxter doing well to block from Lipka.
In the second half, Shields took full advantage of having the wind behind their backs.
The visitors could have equalised when Matthew Beadle headed an inviting opportunity over the bar after a superb cross from Kyle Harrison.
That, though, was a rare chance for Hyde, and Shields went on to dominate.
Their advantage was doubled in the 62nd minute when Jon Shaw sent the ball downfield and Armstrong raced onto it before flicking the ball over Crook from 20 yards with a terrific finish.
It was Armstrong’s first goal at Mariners Park since arriving from Spennymoor Town, and his emotional celebration showed how much it meant to him.
Briggs went close to making it three, but Crook clawed his powerful free-kick away from the top corner.
The ground was now rocking as the crowd of over 1,750 got behind their team, and they were rewarded when the game was effectively put to bed in the 68th minute.
Louis Storey’s hook into the box came back off the crossbar but was retrieved by Holmes, who sent the ball back across the area and into the path of Morse, who hooked it over the line.
Shields’ victory was all but secured, and they were able to enjoy the closing stages.
Connell even almost got on the scoresheet when, invited to shoot by the crowd, he hit a free-kick from halfway inside his own half and it caught the wind before being pushed away by a frantic Crook.
Julio Arca was in typically fine form as he pulled the strings in midfield, and some great skill by the Shields captain helped to set up another chance for Armstrong.
Ultimately, it was Wright’s through ball which put the striker in on goal, but this time Crook was not to be beaten.
There were a number of chances for the Mariners to make it 4-0, and Armstrong could have netted from his own half with Crook well off his line, but the ball went wide.
It was a vital win for the Mariners as they stayed one point clear at the top.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c), Storey, Briggs, Finnigan (Armstrong 15), Wright (Richardson 84), Holmes (Juul 86). Subs not used: Woolston, Scott.
Goals: Holmes (23), Armstrong (58), Morse (68).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields take on Hyde United on Saturday at Mariners Park in an eagerly-awaited clash between two promotion contenders.
It is the first meeting between the sides this season, with both having impressed in the Evo-Stik North Division so far.
Shields go into the game sitting top, three points ahead of fourth-placed Hyde having played the same number of games.
Hyde have lost just once in the league, and reached the first round of the Emirates FA Cup earlier this season.
Shields joint manager Lee Picton is expecting a tough encounter – and is looking for improvement after Tuesday’s 0-0 draw against Tadcaster Albion.
He said: “It was always going to be a big game, but it is even more so now after the points we dropped over the Christmas period and on Tuesday.
“We’re going to have to rely on people coming to the table and producing a real top performance on Saturday.
“Anything other than a top performance on will leave us falling short.
“We’ve got to come out on the front foot, and hopefully we can add a little bit of quality in the final third, that just seems to be eluding us at the moment.”
Shields will be without the injured Anthony Callaghan and Gavin Cogdon, but it is hoped that Barrie Smith will be available after recovering from illness.
Cogdon suffered a hamstring injury in Tuesday’s game, and will undoubtedly be a big miss for the Mariners.
However, Picton is hopeful another member of the squad will stake their claim for a more regular starting slot in Cogdon’s absence.
He added: “Somebody else will get an opportunity, and you’d like to think that everyone in the squad is chomping at the bit for a chance.
“We need other players to step up to the plate, because if we rely on four or five players between now and the end of the season to come up with the goods, we’re going to struggle.
“We just need everybody ready to play their part in what’s going to be a pretty frantic, fast-paced second half of the season.”
Kick-off at Mariners Park is at 3pm, with the turnstiles to open at 12pm.
Those visiting Mariners Park for the first time can click here to see how to find us.
Supporters arriving early and staying behind after the game will be able to take advantage of two Happy Hours on matchday.
The first will be between 12.30pm and 1.30pm in the clubhouse and marquee. Pints of Birra Moretti will be £2.50, with Foster’s and John Smith’s both £2. The Peterborough United against Leicester game will be on the TVs.
The second Happy Hour will be between 5.30pm and 6.30pm in the clubhouse. Again, pints of Birra Moretti will be £2.50, with Foster’s and John Smith’s both £2.
Admission to the game – to be paid at the turnstiles – is £8 for adults, £6 for students and over-65s, and £2 for under-16s.