Kevin Phillips has praised Sam Hodgson for providing him with a welcome selection headache following his two goals in Tuesday’s win over Witton Albion.

Hodgson’s brace proved decisive in the 3-1 win as he marked his first league start of the season in fine fashion.

The 20-year-old is certainly Phillips’ thoughts heading into Saturday’s significant clash with league leaders Matlock Town, with his attitude in particular impressing the manager.

Phillips said: “When you give a player an opportunity, you want them to give you a problem.

“Sam’s attitude has been excellent since I came through the door.

“He came to see me on my first day and told me he wants to play and is ready to play, which is great from my point of view.

“I told him he had to be patient and that when he gets an opportunity, he has to take it.

“He did that on Tuesday so he has given me a headache.

“I was delighted for him. He was in the right place at the right time and there are certain things he could have done better but he’s a young kid and he’s learning, so I was naturally delighted with him.”

Another player firmly in contention is Jordan Hunter, who made his return from a broken arm as a second half substitute in midweek.

Hunter had been out of action since September.

Phillips added: “The kid is itching to play and is another one who came to see me straightaway.

“I’ve got a bit headache now for the weekend and it’s great to have that.

“Jordan is a quality player with loads of energy.

“Mitch (Rose) also did very well so it’s a problem I’ve got to deal with and I’ll certainly do that.

“We’re delighted to see Jordan back and it’s clear he loves football, so I’m really pleased for him.”

Graham Fenton has provided a positive squad update as South Shields prepare to return to action against Radcliffe on Saturday.

The Mariners’ trip to Mickleover last weekend was postponed after a number of positive COVID-19 cases and injuries, leaving Fenton unable to call upon the minimum number of players required.

However, there is better news on that front leading into the meeting with Radcliffe at 1st Cloud Arena, with all those who were infected with COVID expected to be available.

The prognosis is more mixed when it comes to injuries, but Fenton is hopeful of having a strong squad to select from.

He said: “JJ Hooper’s calf is recovering and although that’s a situation we will need to continue monitoring, we’re hopeful he will be back available on Saturday.

“Conor Tee, Alex Kempster and Joao Gomes have all returned to training without any issues this week and we’re also confident of having them available for selection.

“Cedric Main’s groin is still a bit tight but we are also hopeful on him, but the game will definitely come too soon for Callum Ross and Myles Boney.

“Callum is set to have a scan on his knee this week and we will know more on his situation after that, and we’re expecting to have Myles back in training after his ankle injury in 10 to 14 days.

“Jordan Hunter is progressing well, but again this game will come too soon for him.

“He joined in full contact training this week for the first time since suffering a broken arm, and he is slowly gaining confidence that the arm is strong enough to go back into matches.

“We’re really hoping that we will see Jordan back in a South Shields shirt before the end of January, and can’t wait for the day that happens.”

Jordan Hunter will remain unavailable until the New Year after he suffered a setback in his recovery from a broken arm.

The right-back had been aiming to return to full-contact training and potential team selection this week, having undergone surgery on the injury in September.

However, a meeting with his consultant revealed that the injury has not healed as quickly as hoped.

South Shields manager Graham Fenton said: “Unfortunately Jordan has suffered a slight setback, and we have to let the healing process continue to take place.

“We don’t want to put him at risk of further complications by bringing him back too early, so we’re going on the consultant’s advice.

“We’re now looking at somewhere between mid-January and the start of February until Jordan is back available to play.

“Jordan is frustrated because he was looking forward to getting back on the pitch to help the team to more victories.

“What I can assure everyone is that he is working exceptionally hard behind the scenes to keep his fitness levels high, and we know because of his professionalism and hard work that whenever he is available for selection, he will be in a good place.”