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, 6th September 2021, 5:24 pm

Marske United v Shildon

Venue: Mount Pleasant (TS11 7BW)

Date: Tuesday 7th September

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Competition: Pitching-In Northern Premier League East Division

Kick-off: 7.45pm

North East derbies will be a regular occurrence in this season’s Northern Premier League East Division will five of the region’s clubs competing in step four of the non-league system.

The latest instalment comes on Tuesday night when Marske United host former Northern League rivals Shildon.

The Seasiders are many people’s tips to win an ultra-competitive division and I would include myself amongst that number.

Their defensive solidity, the mix of hard work and creativity in midfield and a potent strike-force means they won’t be too far away come the business end of the season.

Their visitors will provide a stern test and have adapted well to life in the Northern Premier League.

Their only defeat in any competition came on Saturday when they were knocked out of the FA Cup by South Shields - and there was no shame in that defeat as they gave the Mariners a good run for their money.

The same spirit and desire will be needed in a tough test at Marske.

Player to watch: Adam Boyes (Marske United)

Blyth Spartans v Darlington

Venue: Croft Park (NE24 3JE)

Date: Saturday 11th September

Competition: Vanarama National League North

Kick-off: 3pm

Another North East derby but this time it’s in non-league’s second tier as Alun Armstrong takes his Darlington side to Croft Park to face his former club Blyth Spartans.

The Quakers will venture to Northumberland looking for their first point of the season after suffering defeats in their three league fixtures so far this season.

By contrast, Spartans have made a solid start to their own campaign with two wins, two draws and a solitary loss at Kidderminster Harriers on their record.

There is a new-found defensive solidity about Michael Nelson’s side and they are yet to concede a goal in their last three games on their own patch.

This feels like a game where anything could happen with one side hoping to carry on their good form and the other trying to find some!

Player to watch: JJ O'Donnell (Blyth Spartans)

Morpeth Town v Witton Albion

Venue: Craik Park (NE61 2YX)

Date: Saturday 11th September

Competition: Pitching-In Northern Premier League Premier Division

Kick-off: 7.30pm

Will the real Morpeth Town please stand up?

The Highwaymen are frustratingly unpredictable at the moment - and manager Stephen Turnbull will hope the FA Cup version of his side turns up when Witton Albion arrive at Craik Park this weekend.

A 6-1 hammering of Hyde United saw Morpeth claim a place in the FA Cup second qualifying round last weekend as Turnbull’s men produced their performance of the season following an slow start to the campaign.

With five defeats from their opening six league fixtures, Morpeth will head into this game looking to move away from the lower reaches of the Premier Division table.

Sean Taylor will be key and the tricky winger was key to that win against Hyde with a stunning first-half hat-trick. He will be the one to watch, not only for any supporters heading to Craik Park, but also for the visiting defenders.

Player to watch: Sean Taylor (Morpeth Town)

Seaham Red Star v Ryhope CW

Venue: Seaham Town Park (SR7 0HP)

Date: Saturday 11th September

Competition: Ebac Northern League Division One

Kick-off: 3pm

Ryhope CW have been one of the surprise packages of the Northern League Division One season after winning five of their opening eight games.

That run of form took them momentarily into the top five of the table - although one point from their last two games has seen them slip to seventh.

Red Star have made a slow start just four points from six games - but they have a number of players that could provide a serious threat to their visitors.

Young striker Adam Lennox has taken well to life in Division One after an impressive opening season in the second tier with Jarrow.

And former Whitley Bay midfielder Mark Robinson has the pace and energy to help Mark Collingwood’s side take control at both ends of the pitch.

With the sides above them in poor form, Red Star will see this game as an ideal opportunity to kickstart their season - but Ryhope have their own motivation as they look to gain three points after two winless games.

Player to watch: Adam Lennox (Seaham Red Star)

Whitley Bay v Billingham Synthonia

Venue: Hillheads (NE25 8HR)

Date: Saturday 11th September

Competition: Buildbase FA Vase First Round Qualifying

Kick-off: 3pm

It is hard to separate the name of Whitley Bay from the FA Vase - they are, after all, the most successful side in the history of the competition.

Four-times winners, including a remarkable treble under Ian Chandler between 2009 and 2011, the heroics of the likes of Kerr, Chow, Burke and Robinson are still fresh in the mind.

That said, it is three years since the club ventured beyond the second qualifying round and they have fell at the first hurdle in the previous two seasons.

Their attempts to improve that poor recent record will get underway with an awkward looking home tie against in-form Billingham Synthonia, who will arrive at Hillheads full of confidence.

At the time of print, Synners have just one defeat to their name so far this season, and that came on the opening day of the campaign at Carlisle City.

This is a banana skin of a tie for the hosts - and a fantastic opportunity for a significant scalp for their visitors.

Player to watch: Kurtis Howes (Billingham Synthonia)

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