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, 23rd August 2021, 1:02 pm

South Shields v FC United of Manchester

Venue: 1st Cloud Arena (NE32 3UP)

Date: Tuesday 24th August

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Today we launch a new feature, Mark Carruthers' Five to Watch this week.

Competition: Pitching-In Northern Premier League Premier Division

Kick-off: 7.45pm

This was one of the easiest picks of the season as two promotion contenders meet at the 1st Cloud Arena.

Their last meeting was a memorable one and came just days before the country was plunged into our first Covid-19 lockdown. The two sides gave over 3,000 supporters something to remember with an eight-goal thriller that saw South Shields claim a 5-3 win.

I’d fully expect to see more goals in this meeting with both managers possesses an abundance of attacking talent within their squads and encouraging their players to play on the front foot.

A big crowd will be there to witness what can be classed as a key promotion fixture even this early in the season - this one should not be missed in my opinion.

Player to watch: Darius Osei (South Shields)

Boldon CA v Jarrow

Venue: Boldon Colliery Sports Ground (NE35 9AN)

Date: Tuesday 24th August

Competition: Ebac Northern League Division Two

Kick-off: 7.30pm

Boldon CA’s promotion into the Northern League led to an eagerly anticipated clash with South Tyneside rivals Jarrow.

That historic fixture comes on Tuesday night and they meet in the Northern League for the first time in their history.

Boldon have adapted well to life in the Northern League and were sat top of Division Two ahead of their weekend visit to Billingham Synthonia - although they did suffer their first defeat of the season with a narrow loss on Teesside.

By contrast, Jarrow went into Saturday’s trip to Washington in poor form - but they will head into the derby in a more positive mood after claiming a 6-1 win against the Mechanics.

This feels like a game where literally anything could happen.

Player to watch: Oscar Taylor (Boldon CA)

North Shields v Ashington

Venue: Daren Persson Stadium (NE29 0LH)

Date: Wednesday 25th August

Competition: Ebac Northern League Division One

Kick-off: 7.30pm

North Shields have been heavily tipped for promotion into the Northern Premier League East Division by many onlookers - myself included - and their early-season form has done little to quell the hype.

The same could not be said about Ashington - but their own form and Saturday’s home win against Northallerton Town means this game will be a meeting of two sides currently sat in the top five of the Division One table.

Both sides like to play attractive football and possess players capable of producing something out of nothing so anything could happen in this game.

I would edge towards seeing North Shields extend their unbeaten run to an eighth game in all competitions by claiming a sixth win of the season - but with the likes of Dean Briggs, Ryan McGorrigan and Max Cowburn in their side, the Colliers will present a tough test for their promotion credentials.

Player to watch: Dan Wilson (North Shields)

Darlington v Alfreton Town

Venue: Blackwell Meadows (DL1 5NR)

Date: Saturday 28th August

Competition: Vanarama National League North

Kick-off: 3pm

They haven’t had the most ideal preparations for the new season, but Darlington will finally get their National League North campaign underway on Saturday when they host Alfreton Town.

Alun Armstrong has endured a busy summer in the transfer market and there is a fresh feel to the Quakers squad that will hope to push for a play-off place in non-league’s second tier.

The former Middlesbrough and Ipswich Town striker has added genuine quality to his ranks after bringing in the likes of former Sunderland striker Andrew Nelson and Gateshead left-back George Smith.

There have been several departures and seeing Erico Sousa depart for Grimsby Town will have been a blow to those in the Tin Shed after the tricky winger impressed during his time with Darlo.

But his trickery and eye for the unexpected may not be missed after Armstrong went back to Tadcaster Albion to sign Kevin Dos Santos and the early signs are promising.

With a Covid-19 inflicted break now over, it’s time for the Quakers to show what they can offer against a physical and direct Alfreton Town side.

Expect a clash of two contrasting styles here - but one that I believe the Quakers extra quality will help them win.

Player to watch: Kevin Dos Santos (Darlington)

Consett v Thornaby

Venue: Belle View (DH8 7JP)

Date: Tuesday 24th August

Competition: Ebac Northern League Division One

Kick-off: 3pm

I am not sure many would have tipped this fixture to be a meeting of Division One’s top two ahead of the season - but at the time of writing, ahead of the midweek games, that is exactly where these two clubs lie.

Thornaby unexpectedly sit on top of the table after producing a spectacular start to the season consisting of four wins in six games and head into Saturday’s game as one of only two unbeaten sides in the top tier.

Their hosts are undoubtedly contenders for promotion and Consett boss Terry Mitchell has a side full of eye-catching ball players and pace.

The 11 league fixtures involving these two sides this season have produce a combined 47 goals and it would be a surprise if that tally is not taken beyond the half-century come 5pm on Saturday evening.

Player to watch: Elliott Beddow (Thornaby)

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