Five to Watch: Non-league expert Mark Carruthers picks the key games across the North East this week

In a new weekly feature, our non-league expert Mark Carruthers previews FIVE big games to look out for in the North East this week.

Monday, 16th August 2021, 9:39 am

Dunston UTS v Shildon

Venue: The UTS Stadium (NE11 9JL)

Date: Tuesday 17th August

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Competition: Pitching-In Northern Premier League East Division

Kick-off: 7.45pm

For decades this fixture has been a staple of the Ebac Northern League – but now, for the first time in the history of both clubs, they will face each other at a higher level.

Dunston UTS are going into their third season as a Northern Premier League club – although they are yet to complete an entire campaign after the Covid-19 pandemic forced the curtailment of the previous two seasons. This year they are joined in a new look East Division by Shildon after they were promoted as part of the FA’s restructure of the non-league system.

This is the first of a whole host of intriguing North East derbies in the division and it sure to be an eventful meeting of two very strong sides.

It’s always worth a visit to the UTS Stadium, which has undergone quite the transformation since Dunston’s FA Cup run three years ago and I can assure you, you will receive a very warm welcome.

Player to watch: Michael Sweet (Shildon)

Stockton Town v Hebburn Town

Venue: The Map UK Stadium (TS19 0QD)

Date: Wednesday 18th August

Competition: Pitching-In Northern Premier League East Division

Kick-off: 7.45pm

This is another North East derby between former Northern League clubs in the NPL’s second tier and it presents an immediate reunion of two sides that looked set to battle it out for last season’s Northern League Division One title

Both head into the game looking for a first win at a higher level after Stockton battled to a goalless draw at Jamie Vardy’s former club Stocksbridge Park Steels and Hebburn were narrowly beaten at home by Frickley Athletic at the weekend.

Both sides have a potent mix of players with power and class with the likes of Stockton winger Kevin Hayes and Hebburn counterpart Ali Alshabeeb likely to catch the eye.

This is a historic fixture for Stockton as they host their first ever fixture at step four of the pyramid and it marks the next step on a journey that has taken them from the Wearside League to the Northern Premier League within five years.

Player to watch: Kevin Hayes (Stockton Town)

West Allotment Celtic v Whitley Bay

Venue: East Palmersville Sports Pavilion (NE12 9HF)

Date: Friday 20th August

Competition: Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round

Kick-off: 7.30pm

A North Tyneside derby between two Northern League neighbours, Friday night football, in the FA Cup, under the floodlights at West Allotment Celtic’s new home – this should not need to much of a sell here.

Allotment and Whitley Bay both came through testing ties to set up their Friday night meeting and this one could literally deliver anything for anyone that chooses to attend.

Both sides are packed for forward-thinking players and the ten fixtures they have played in this season have produced 44 goals between them.

It’s a difficult one to call because of the unpredictability of both sides and that makes it an even more fascinating tie.

It’s also the first FA Cup tie at the hosts’ new East Palmersville Sports Pavilion home, which is a work-in-progress, but does also mark their first permanent home near West Allotment for over half a century.

Player to watch: Gee Baltazar (West Allotment Celtic)

Spennymoor Town v Southport

Venue: Brewery Field (DL16 6JN)

Date: Saturday 21st August

Competition: Vanarama National League North

Kick-off: 3pm

Spennymoor Town really could not have asked for a better start to their push for promotion from the National League North at the weekend.

In his first competitive game as permanent manager of the club, former Hartlepool United and Sunderland midfielder Tommy Miller saw the Moors collect an impressive three points from their visit to much-fancied Boston United.

They head home to Brewery Field for the first time this season when they host Southport on Saturday looking to complete what would be a fantastic start to the new campaign.

The Moors are full of talent and the signings of Brad Abbott and John Lufudu have only added to a strong squad.

Brewery Field is rapidly turning into one of the region’s finest non-league arena and more work is planned as the ambitious Moors look for success on and off the pitch.

This one should be an absolute cracker.

Player to watch: Glen Taylor (Spennymoor Town)

Billingham Synthonia v Boldon CA

Venue: Norton Sports Complex (TS20 1PE)

Date: Saturday 21st August

Competition: Ebac Northern League Division Two

Kick-off: 3pm

I tipped Billingham Synthonia as one of the sides that will challenge for promotion in Division Two this season when I was asked to pen a preview for the Northern League’s website earlier this month.

After going unbeaten in their last four games – at the time of writing – they are putting in a promising start to the season.

However, I did not see Boldon CA making such an impressive start to life in the Northern League after they were promoted from the Wearside League last season.

David Crumbie’s men got a credible draw at Horden CW on their step five debut but then won three consecutive home games – and that trio of fixtures produced a remarkable 21 goals.

Their hosts are also packed of players that like to play on the front foot and that coupled with the return of Boldon striker Levi Collins means this one should guarantee an absolute goalfest.

Sorry in advance for the now inevitable goalless draw!

Player to watch: Levi Collins (Boldon CA)

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