Mark Carruthers: Our non-league expert returns with FIVE games to watch this weekend

Our non-league expert Mark Carruthers returns with five games to watch this weekend.

Thursday, 6th January 2022, 2:10 pm

Gateshead v Chorley

Date: Saturday 8th January

Competition: Vanarama National League North

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Five games to watch.

Venue: International Stadium

Kick-off Time: 3pm

Saturday’s home game with Chorley will offer Gateshead an almost unique experience.

Mike Williamson’s promotion challenging side will look to bounce back from a league defeat for only the third time this season.

Last weekend’s defeat at local rivals Blyth Spartans clearly stung the players and management team at the Heed - but the pain of that result was tempered with the news top of the table Brackley Town were also left empty-handed from their visit to Kettering Town.

That means Gateshead will head into Saturday’s home game against fourth-placed Chorley looking to preserve their perfect home record and give themselves a chance of topping the table for the first time this season.

Chorley have enduring a mixed bag on the road this season but they possess several players that could trouble the Heed defence.

This one could be a cracker for anyone visiting the International Stadium this weekend.

Player to Watch: Cedwyn Scott (Gateshead)

Shildon v Stockbridge Park Steels

Date: Saturday 8th January

Competition: Pitching-In Northern Premier League East Division

Venue: Dean Street

Kick-off Time: 3pm

Home is where the heart is for Shildon this season.

Their record at Dean Street has laid the foundations for an impressive first half of their first ever season in step four of the non-league system.

North East rivals Stockton Town are the only club to have taken a point from a visit to Shildon during the campaign and the Anchors proved to be a thorn in the side against last weekend when they inflicted a 1-0 away defeat on Daniel Moore’s side.

Despite that defeat, Shildon still remain in third place in the East Division table and currently hold a ten-point lead on Worksop Town, who sit just outside of the play-off places.

Moore’s men already have a 2-1 win over Saturday’s opponents on their record this season - and another win will help them move on from last weekend’s defeat at Stockton and further enhance their chances of securing a top five finish.

Player to Watch: Dean Thexton (Shildon)

West Allotment Celtic v North Shields

Date: Saturday 8th January

Competition: Ebac Northern League Division One

Venue: East Palmersville Sports Pavilion

Kick-off Time: 3pm

If the first meeting of these two sides earlier in the season was anything to go by, anyone visiting the East Palmersville Sports Pavilion could be in for a treat.

West Allotment marked their return to the Northern League’s top tier with a tough-looking trip to North Shields - and came away with a more than credible 1-1 draw at the Daren Persson Stadium.

It proved to be something of a false dawn for Jay Bates side as they struggled to adapt to life at a higher level and remained at the bottom of the Division One table until the early weeks of October.

Their turnaround in form has been spectacular and they head into their return fixture with the Robins on the back of nine wins in their last 12 games.

Their visitors are in a similar vein of form as they look to challenge Consett for the Division One title - but their promotion prospects will face a severe month as Marc Nash’s side continue to navigate a crucial month over a number of competitions.

Player to Watch: Dan Wilson (North Shields)

Whickham v Whitley Bay

Date: Saturday 8th January

Competition: Ebac Northern League Division One

Venue: The Glebe Sports Ground

Kick-off Time: 3pm

Whickham have certainly impressed since the appointment of Tony Fawcett and they head into Saturday’s home game against Whitley Bay looking to extend a run of six wins in eight games under the former Ryton and Crawcrook Albion boss.

The meeting with the four-time FA Vase winners will be an intriguing one for Fawcett as he faces the club he departed earlier this season after an 18-month stint as joint-manager at Hillheads.

Fawcett’s former club have endured something of a torrid run of form over the last six weeks after suffering five straight defeats.

Their hosts will be confident of extending that run to a sixth game as they look to move into the top eight of the Division One table.

Player to Watch: Zak Atkinson (Whickham)

Ryhope CW v Sunderland RCA

Date: Saturday 8th January

Competition: Ebac Northern League Division One

Venue: The Recreation Ground

Kick-off Time: 3pm

Ryhope CW are one of the surprise packages of the Northern League season and were sat in second place ahead of their Christmas break.

They resume a promising season sat in fourth after North Shields and Thornaby claimed wins in their last fixtures as Ryhope sat watching from the sidelines.

A home derby against local rivals Sunderland RCA provides an explosive start to the New Year and the two sides prepare for the game in good form.

RCA have three wins and a draw in their last four games and will hope to complete a league double over their hosts after claiming a 1-0 home win against Ryhope on the opening day of the season.

They could move to within three points of the top six if they can claim a notable win at the Recreation Ground - and Ryhope’s home form will give them some hope with four of their five defeats coming on their home patch.

Player to Watch: James Ellis (Ryhope CW)

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