Five to Watch: Non-league expert Mark Carruthers picks the key games across the North East this week including South Shields v Warrington Town, Spennymoor Town v AFC Fylde and Darlington v York City
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.
Spennymoor Town v AFC Fylde
Competition: Emirates FA Cup Second Qualifying Round replay
Venue: Brewery Field (DL16 6JN)
Date: Tuesday 21st September
A high-quality first meeting between the National League North rivals failed to produce a winner and they will meet again at the Brewery Field on Tuesday night.
The Moors put in a disciplined and controlled display to secure a second chance to progress into the third qualifying round for a third consecutive year and they head into the replay knowing they will face another step two rival if they see off the Coasters.
Monday’s draw paired the winners of Tuesday night’s game with the winners of a replay between Chorley and Southport and, given Spennymoor’s form on their home pitch, they will be optimistic they can progress to within 90 minutes of a place in the first round.
It is, of course, not as simple as that, and two challenging ties lie in wait for Tommy Miller’s side.
Their focus, for now, remains on Fylde and claiming a win will be far from easy.
Player to Watch: Glen Taylor (Spennymoor Town)
Sunderland West End v Billingham Synthonia
Competition: Ebac Northern League Division Two
Venue: Ford Hub (SR4 0HB)
Date: Wednesday 22nd September
Sunderland West End are in the best form of their time as a Northern League club – but their home game against Billingham Synthonia will give them a true test of where they are in terms of a realistic challenge for promotion.
Keith Graydon and Steven Stewart’s side have seven wins in their last eight games, and they have plundered their way to 33 goals in the process.
That form in front of goal makes them the highest scorers in the Northern League’s second tier – and Wednesday night’s visitors lie in second place with 38 goals from their 13 games, three less than West End’s seasonal total.
Both sides are on course for a push for promotion in Division One – but this midweek meeting could give a clear indication of who is more likely to remain in that position come the end of the season.
Player to Watch: Cameron Old (Sunderland West End)
West Auckland Town v Newton Aycliffe
Competition: Ebac Northern League Division One
Venue: The Wanted Stadium (DL14 9AQ)
Date: Friday 24th September
This has all of the elements of producing a high-calibre fixture for anyone making their way to the Wanted Stadium on Friday night.
West Auckland Town have recovered from a slow start to the season and head into their home clash with Newton Aycliffe sat in fourth place in the table after winning their last four games.
Their visitors were heavily tipped for a push for promotion this season and they seem to be living up to the hype as they sit in sixth place – just two points shy of the top two in the league.
Last Saturday’s impressive 3-2 win at North Shields and wins at Ryhope CW and Consett means they have taken maximum points from away days at the current top three – and there is no doubt they will have to be at their very best if they are to add fourth placed West to that list.
Player to Watch: Jake Petitjean (Newton Aycliffe)
Darlington v York City
Competition: Vanarama National League North
Venue: Blackwell Meadows (DL1 5NR)
Date: Saturday 25th September
Darlington’s home fixture against Steve Watson’s York City rounds off a big fortnight for the Quakers.
A difficult start to the season we partly halted by a brave comeback from two goals down to secure a 2-2 draw at North East rivals Blyth Spartans.
That point was followed up by a fine win at Brackley Town and a home draw against National League North rivals Chester in the FA Cup second qualifying round.
A replay between the two sides will precede their meeting with the Minstermen – and the result in midweek will say a lot about the mood of Alun Armstrong’s side going into Saturday’s game.
York also endured a challenging start to the campaign, but they are showing signs of an upturn in form as they look to live up to the pre-season hype surrounding their promotion credentials.
There will be a big crowd at Blackwell Meadows for this one – and it should be an eventful 90 minutes between two sides that look to be getting on the right track this season.
Player to Watch: Will Hatfield (Darlington)
South Shields v Warrington Town
Competition: Pitching-In Northern Premier League Premier Division
Venue: 1st Cloud Arena (NE34 9PH)
Date: Saturday 25th September
There is history between South Shields and Warrington Town and the two sides seem to be inseparable as they continue in their attempts to make their way up the non-league pyramid.
Since the Mariners were promoted into the Northern Premier League Premier Division in 2018, their meetings with the Yellows have conjured up some memorable moments – and not all of them have been positive for Graham Fenton’s men.
However, they head into Saturday’s game at the 1st Cloud Arena in impressive form in the league and will have further motivation as they look to move on from their FA Cup exit at the hands of East Division club Marske United.
Their visitors suffered their own cup upset when Marine inflicted a 3-0 defeat on the Yellows – but Fenton and his players will know they will have to be at their best if they are to maintain their place at the top of the Premier Division table with a win in front of what will surely be a large crowd this weekend.
Player to Watch: Conor Tee (South Shields)