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Mark Carruthers: Five eye-catching fixtures to watch across the North East non-league scene

There are a whole host of eye-catching fixtures taking place across the North East non-league scene as our clubs push for success throughout the remainder of the season.

By Mark Carruthers
Thursday, 31st March 2022, 3:27 pm

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Decisive title contests, meetings between play-off contenders and a clash between two former Northern League rivals are featured in this week’s Sunderland Echo Five to Watch.

Brackley Town v Gateshead

Venue: St James Park (NN13 7EJ)

Five to watch.

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Date: Saturday 2nd April

Competition: Vanarama National League North

Kick-off: 3pm

Title rivals go head-to-head at St James Park as Gateshead’s bid to return to non-league’s top tier is handed a severe test at Brackley Town.

The intrigue in this meeting goes far beyond their respective title bids with Brackley’s rock solid defence facing a Heed side that are amongst the top goalscorers in the top seven levels of the football pyramid.

Gateshead sit three points clear of their hosts, who hold a game in hand on Mike Williamson’s side - but no matter what the result should be, it will not decide the destination of the National League North title.

That is not to underplay the significance of an unquestionably decisive contest and the winner will deliver a significant psychological blow to their opponents.

But there is still time to recover and there are more twists and turns to come no matter what happens at St James Park on Saturday afternoon.

Player to watch: Cedwyn Scott (Gateshead)

Matlock Town v Morpeth Town

Venue: Causeway Lane (DE4 3AR)

Date: Saturday 2nd April

Competition: Pitching-In Northern Premier League Premier Division

Kick-off: 3pm

Morpeth Town’s hopes of reaching the Premier Division play-offs remain very much alive - but how realistic their hopes are of securing a top-five place will be decided over the coming week.

A visit to face a Matlock side that were seen as genuine title challengers until recent weeks provides a significant challenge for Craig Lynch and his players.

As will Tuesday night’s long trip to relegation-threatened Witton Albion, who are scrapping for their lives at the wrong end of the division at present.

But all focus will be on Saturday’s game against the Gladiators as two sides with plenty of experience go head-to-head in a meeting that could be repeated at the end of the season if Morpeth can sneak into the play-off positions.

The former of forwards Andrew Johnson and Liam Henderson will be key for Morpeth as they look to take a notable scalp and boost their hopes of ending the season on a high.

Player to watch: Andrew Johnson (Morpeth Town)

Marske United v Hebburn Town

Venue: The UTS Stadium (TS10 4HX)

Date: Saturday 2nd April

Competition: Pitching-In Northern Premier League East Division

Kick-off: 3pm

Hebburn Town provide the latest challenge to Marske United’s bid for the East Division title.

The Seasiders have been unrelenting in their form throughout the campaign and have lost just three of their 31 league games so far this season.

Carl Jarrett’s men currently sit on place and one point behind leaders Liversedge - although they also have the benefit of holding a game in hand on the West Yorkshire outfit.

Their meeting with the Hornets is that game in hand and that makes the fixture even more crucial to their title hopes - especially with a home clash against Liversedge quickly appearing on the horizon.

Hebburn make the trip looking to bounce back from last weekend’s home defeat against Tadcaster Albion - and they travel knowing they have to put in a significantly improved performance if they are to secure what would be a shock win.

Player to watch: Stephen Thompson (Marske United)

Shildon v Worksop Town

Venue: Dean Street (DL4 1HA)

Date: Saturday 2nd April

Competition: Pitching-In Northern Premier League East Division

Kick-off: 3pm

No matter what happens this weekend, Shildon’s first season as a Northern Premier League club will be viewed as a successful one.

Trophies may well have eluded them, and a title push is a stretch too far, but in challenging for a play-off spot, they have shown they are well accustomed to life at a higher level.

That said, Saturday’s home clash with top-five rivals Worksop Town does present Daniel Moore’s side will a significant indicator of the level of success they have achieved.

A home win would go a long way to securing a play-off spot as it would leave Shildon with an eight-point advantage on their visitors with just four games remaining in the season.

An away win would send the battle for the final play-off place into an intriguing climax as nerves are frayed throughout the remainder of the campaign.

Anything could happen in this one.

Player to watch: Dean Thexton (Shildon)

North Shields v Guisborough Town

Venue: Daren Persson Stadium (NE29 OLH)

Date: Saturday 21st August

Competition: Ebac Northern League Division One

Kick-off: 3pm

It seems remarkable to say that North Shields will play their final home game of the season when they host Guisborough Town this weekend.

Marc Nash’s men are right in the battle for the Division One title and currently lie just six points behind leaders Consett with the benefit of holding four games in hand on the Steelmen.

That said, the margin for error is thin, with the Robins facing six consecutive away games in the aftermath of their home clash with the Priorymen.

If they are to secure only a second Northern League title, they will have to do things the hard way.

Nor should they look beyond a sizeable challenge from Guisborough, who impressed in midweek with a 1-0 win against Marske United to reach the North Riding Senior Cup Final.

They are a big threat to North Shields’ title aspirations - and one that the Robins would be foolish to look beyond.

Player to watch: Dan Wilson (North Shields)

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