South Shields captain Jon Shaw is expecting their winning run to be given a stern test when they host Mickleover Sports on Saturday.
Shields are seeking a sixth victory in a row in all competitions and will start as favourites at Mariners Park against a Mickleover side which sits 18th in the table.
Shaw knows Mickleover manager John McGrath from their time as team-mates at Burton Albion, and predicts a difficult encounter for the Mariners.
He said: “This is a game we’re looking forward to.
“With the break-up of league games because of the cups, we want to get some points on the board.
“If we can win it will be six on the spin and we’ll be climbing back up the league, but Mickleover will be a dangerous side.
“I played with their manager at Burton Albion and I know a few of the lads who play for them.
“They’ve got a lot of experience and use their youth system quite well, like ourselves.
“I think they’ll be a bit of an unknown for us, but at the same time I don’t know how different they’ll be to most of the teams in our league.
“If we stick to our way and play our game, I still believe we’re the best team in this league.
“Hopefully Mickleover will give us a really good game and a real test, enjoy being here in front of our supporters, but I still want to come out of it with a win and I back us to do that.”
Shields are sixth in the table, 10 points behind leaders Scarborough Athletic with three games in hand.
The scenario reminds Shaw of the club’s title-winning campaign in the Northern League two seasons ago, when Shields clawed back a huge deficit to North Shields and Morpeth Town.
He insists the league table is not everything at this stage.
He added: “Nobody is going to let us forget that we want to win the league, and I don’t want that to ever change either from inside the dressing room.
“To have something to aim for and something to drive for is why we play and why we’ve been so successful, but when you do hit bumps in the road you have to start just focusing on the next game.
“We’ve had those inconsistent spells where if you’re looking too far down the line, you’ve lost the two games in that run-up and the focus becomes completely different.
“We need to keep focusing on the next match, but there’ll come a point in the season when we say ‘where are we?’
“When we get to Christmas time we can re-address it but for now, let’s just keep trying to chalk wins off, claw some of those points back on Scarborough and see where we are.
“I still look at the league table, and I don’t think you can help that.
“You look at it and say that if we win our games in hand, we’ll be second and a point off the top.
“I know that stat because I have looked at the table, but it still doesn’t mean that I’m thinking too much about it.
“I’m trying to think about this game against Mickleover and then just individual matches from there.
“Last year, we won so many games at the start that people were chasing us, but if you go back to the Northern League season, we were so far behind because of the games we missed during the cup runs that we were still chasing people.
“It’s not a scenario that we’ve not been involved in before, and it’s important that you keep focusing on the game in front of you.”
You can read a full interview with Jon Shaw in Saturday’s programme.
South Shields are expected to have a close to full-strength squad to choose from when they welcome Mickleover Sports to Mariners Park on Saturday.
Shields go into the game looking for a sixth win in a row and are expected to be boosted by the return of David Foley, who missed out on last week’s Buildbase FA Trophy tie against Hyde United with a slight knock.
Joint manager Lee Picton has urged the Mariners to keep their focus as they aim to continue their fine form against 18th-placed Mickleover.
They will be looking to improve their current position of sixth, with Shields 10 points behind leaders Scarborough Athletic but with three games in hand.
Picton insists that they can’t look too far ahead as they aim to close that gap.
He said: “It’s a massive cliche, but we’re taking it one game at a time.
“We’ve talked about trying to stop looking too far into the future.
“We’ve had a few ups and downs so far this season and we’ve had little targets here and there, but we got to the stage where we told the lads to just concentrate on winning the next game of football.
“It has served us well to this point.
“We’ve won five games in a row now and we’ve just got to see who comes next and not look beyond the next game.”
Shields are hoping for a bumper crowd at Mariners Park.
Picton added: “The club has made considerable efforts to earmark this game to put some promotions out and try to get a few more people through the gate.
“Hopefully the community will respond to that.
“There are lots of people out there who won’t have tasted the experience of coming to Mariners Park.
“If we can get a few people along who want to do that for the first time and hopefully put up a good show both on and off the pitch as a club, we’ve got something really good to look forward to.
“If we can get three points, we’ll be starting to build up a run and a bit of momentum.
“Let’s see how far it can take us.”
Shields remain without the injured Barrie Smith and Anthony Callaghan, but Gavin Cogdon made his return from a hamstring injury in last week’s game against Hyde United and will be in contention again.
Picton is relishing the competition for places.
He said: “It’s certainly better than the situation we had a few weeks ago, when we had nobody to choose from up front.
“You want to have tough decisions to make and it’s great to have Gavin back.
“We all know that Gavin on form can be more than a handful for any side at this level, so to have that extra option is really good moving into the winter period.”
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.
It’s competition time! We’re giving away a hospitality package for four at the home game against Mickleover Sports on Saturday, November 17.
The lucky winner will receive free entry to the ground for the Evo-Stik Premier Division match, a table in our Shipley Heating Lounge, three-course meal, a free drink and a matchday programme.
If you don’t win the hospitality package, fear not! We have free tickets for the game to give away as second prizes so you may still get lucky!
To enter, simply click here. Remember to tell your friends and family and let’s get as many people to enter as possible!