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.

Wednesday, 1st September 2021, 4:48 pm

Heaton Stannington v Horden CW

Venue: Grounsell Park (NE7 7HP)

Date: Wednesday 1st September

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Washington FC (dk blue) v Jarrow FC (lt green) at Ford Hub Sports Complex, Sunderland, on Saturday.

Competition: Ebac Northern League Division Two

Kick-off: 7.30pm

This is a clash between one side heavily backed to challenge for promotion into the Northern League’s top tier and an opposition that were supposed to be taking their time to adapt in Division Two.

To their credit, Horden travel to Tyneside looking to preserve an unbeaten record consisting of five wins and two draws since their promotion into the Northern League was confirmed.

The Stan have a reputation as one of the league’s most hospitable club - but they have been less than habitable on the pitch at Grounsell Park and are unbeaten in their first four games on their home turf.

This feels like a game where literally anything could happen but attacking intent seems guaranteed with games involving these two sides so far this season bringing up a half century of goals.

Player to watch: Liam McBryde (Heaton Stannington)

Dunston UTS v Marine

Venue: UTS Stadium (NE11 9JL)

Date: Saturday 4th September

Competition: Emirates FA Cup First Qualifying Round

Kick-off: 3pm

It seems remarkable that it’s only eight months since Marine hosted Jose Mourinho and his Spurs side in the third round of last season’s FA Cup.

After mixing it with the Premier League giants, the Mariners are back amongst their non-league counterparts once again and they will provide a significant rest of Chris Swailes’ ever-improving Dunston UTS.

A slow start to the season has now given way to gradual improvement for Swailes and his players and with memories of recent FA Cup runs still fresh in the mind, they head into this one hoping to reach the second qualifying round for the third time in four seasons.

Marine gave signal of their intent by seeing off a strong Workington side in the last round - and Dunston will know they have to be at their best to end their hopes of moving a step closer towards another glamour tie in the competition.

Player to watch: Luke Porritt (Dunston UTS)

Sunderland RCA v Stockton Town

Venue: Sunderland LGV Park (SR2 0NZ)

Date: Saturday 4th September

Competition: Emirates FA Cup First Qualifying Round

Kick-off: 7.30pm

Sunderland RCA manager Steve Riley wanted a home tie and he certainly got that - but he would have wished for an easier opposition than Stockton Town.

The RCA boss described the Anchors as “the stand-out” Northern League side of the last two seasons - although Michael Dunwell’s men are now plying their trade in the Northern Premier League’s second tier after being promoted as part of the FA’s summer restructure of the non-league system.

This is not new territory for RCA. After all, they have reached the first qualifying round in the last two seasons - but they have only ventured beyond this point once in their history and there is no doubt they are rated as outsiders to repeat that feat of 2017.

Stockton arrive with plenty of experience of the upper-levels of the non-league game and the likes of Shane Henry, Kevin Hayes, Jamie Owens and Tom Portas will all have a big part to say over where this tie goes.

RCA will hope for a big crowd to get behind them as they look to pull off a big shock and secure their place in Monday’s second qualifying round draw.

Player to watch: Kevin Hayes (Stockton Town)

Shildon v South Shields

Venue: Dean Street (DL4 1HA)

Date: Saturday 4th September

Competition: Emirates FA Cup First Qualifying Round

Kick-off: 3pm

This is, for me, the tie of the round and one that the BBC could and should have covered on their live online coverage of the FA Cup.

Naturally, there is a North East bias, but a clash between an Shildon side in irrepressible form and a South Shields side undertaking a historic first season as a full-time club should not have been missed.

A big crowd seems guaranteed for a game between two recent Northern League champions and two sides that love to play on the front foot.

Shildon will fancy their chances of pulling off what would be a major shock - but the Mariners are really starting to move up a gear, despite a slightly underwhelming display in last week’s home draw with FC United of Manchester.

Confidence will be high in both camps and the anticipation for this one means it has to be classed as a must-watch for any supporter undecided over where to venture on Saturday afternoon.

Player to watch: Darius Osei (South Shields)

Ashton United v Hebburn Town

Venue: Hurst Cross (OL2 0DY)

Date: Saturday 4th September

Competition: Emirates FA Cup First Qualifying Round

Kick-off: 3pm

It has not been the easiest start to life in the Northern Premier League for Kevin Bolam and his Hebburn Town side.

The Hornets have collected just one point from their opening three fixtures of the East Division season following their promotion last season.

They do, however, have a win to their names in the opening month and that came with a 7-0 demolition of league rivals Yorkshire Amateur in the FA Cup preliminary round.

Their reward for that big win was a trip to Ashton United, who compete alongside South Shields and Morpeth Town in the NPL’s Premier Division.

The Robins are yet to find their stride this season after securing just one win from their opening six games and that came on the opening day of the campaign with a 2-0 home triumph against a strong Matlock Town side.

Despite their hosts underwhelming form, this presents a sizeable test for Hebburn, but this is the FA Cup and we all know anything can happen in the world’s greatest domestic cup competition.

Player to watch: Connor Bell (Hebburn Town)

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