Mark Carruthers' Five to Watch: Two key clashes in both the National League North and Northern Premier League

Friday night Northern League football and two key clashes in both the National League North and Northern Premier League come under the radar for this week’s Sunderland Echo Five to Watch.

By Mark Carruthers
Wednesday, 23rd February 2022, 4:00 pm

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Mark Carruthers' Five to Watch
Mark Carruthers' Five to Watch

Whickham v West Allotment Celtic

Venue: Glebe Sports Ground

Date: Friday 25th February

Competition: Ebac Northern League Division One

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Kick-off: 7.30pm

It’s Friday night football under the floodlights at Whickham as they take on West Allotment Celtic.

Go for the consistently warm welcome in the clubhouse, enjoy the rather lovely sausage rolls on sale in the cafe and stay for what should be a goal-laden affair between two sides that have improved after slow starts to the season.

Whickham have lost just twice in the eleven league games overseen by Tony Fawcett since the former Whitley Bay joint-manager replaced Mark Convery.

That has taken the Lang Jacks into mid-table and they could move into the top eight with a win on Friday night.

Their visitors have hit a bumpy patch of form with just one win in their last five but even that poor run is a vast improvement on their difficult re-introduction to life in the Northern League’s top tier.

After securing promotion last season, Jay Bates men failed to win in their first 10 league games of the season - but they have since shown they can provide a severe test for anyone in the league.

Player to watch: Nathan Greenwood (Whickham)

Blyth Spartans v AFC Fylde

Venue: Croft Park

Date: Saturday 26th February

Competition: Vanarama National League North

Kick-off: 3pm

Blyth Spartans head into Saturday’s home clash with promotion contenders AFC Fylde on the back of one of their most impressive wins of the season.

Southport is never an easy place to visit but Terry Mitchell’s side were worthy 3-2 winners at the play-off candidates on Tuesday night thanks to goals from Sunderland loanee Patrick Almond, JJ O’Donnell and Lewis McNall.

They will have to be at their best once again this weekend when Fylde visit Croft Park looking to bounce back from their surprise home defeat against Darlington.

That seemed to all but end the Coasters hopes of a late-season title push - but they remain in the hunt for a play-off spot and that makes them very dangerous opponents for a Spartans side looking to widen the gap between themselves and the National League North relegation place.

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

Spennymoor Town v Gloucester City

Venue: Brewery Field

Date: Saturday 26th February

Competition: Vanarama National League North

Kick-off: 3pm

Tuesday night’s impressive win at Chester will have pleased Spennymoor Town joint-managers Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley for two reasons.

Firstly, they saw their current employers earn three points against their former club, but more importantly, it kept the Moors hopes of pushing for a top-seven spot very much alive.

They remain nine points adrift of Hereford, who currently occupy the sixth and final play-off spot, but do hold three games in hand on The Bulls.

Every game is crucial for Johnson, Morley and the Spenny players and that is why they can’t afford to take Saturday’s home clash against struggling Gloucester City lightly.

Any manager in a highly competitive National League North will tell you every game is dangerous at this level - but the Moors will be expected to claim a win to boost their hopes of a push for a play-off spot.

Player to watch: Glen Taylor (Spennymoor Town)

South Shields v Nantwich Town

Venue: 1st Cloud Arena

Date: Saturday 26th February

Competition: Pitching-In Northern Premier League Premier Division

Kick-off: 3pm

For all of the concerns over their recent form, South Shields head into Saturday’s home game with Nantwich Town sat at the top of the NPL Premier Division table.

The Mariners racked up what could be their most important win of the season when they claimed all three points in Tuesday night’s home game with fellow title rivals Matlock Town.

That win moved them two points clear of the Gladiators, who face a tough-looking trip to FC United of Manchester this weekend.

Second placed Buxton also have a challenging fixture on the horizon as they prepare to visit Atherton Collieries on Saturday.

Any slips by their two main title rivals will mean the Mariners have to take advantage of a favourable looking home meeting with struggling Nantwich.

That does not come without a warning as the Dabbers have troubled in-form Morpeth Town recently and are a side well establish in step three.

Player to watch: Sam Hodgson (South Shields)

Stockton Town v Sheffield

Venue: Map Group UK Stadium

Date: Saturday 26th February

Competition: Pitching-In Northern Premier League East Division

Kick-off: 3pm

Stockton Town’s push for a play-off place in the East Division may have taken a hit with a defeat at Dunston UTS last weekend - but that should not detract from an impressive first season in step four of the non-league system.

Michael Dunwell’s side head into Saturday’s home game with Sheffield occupying the fourth and final play-off place and they hold a four-point buffer to sixth-placed Worksop Town.

In Kevin Hayes and Michael Roberts, they have two of their top goalscorers in the division and possess a lot of the experience needed to negotiate what will be an intriguing end to the season.

A big crowd will be expected for a home game Stockton will expect to win and win well - and the form of the likes of Hayes and Roberts will be key as they look to bounce back from that defeat at Dunston.

Player to watch: Kevin Hayes (Stockton Town)