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Mark Carruthers: Five North East non-league games to watch this weekend

The FA Vase making a welcome return and key fixtures in the play-off race in the National League North, Northern Premier League and Northern League are the highlights of a fascinating weekend of North East non-league football.

By Mark Carruthers
Thursday, 10th March 2022, 10:00 am

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The Sunderland Echo, via our resident non league expert Mark Carruthers, picks out five of the most intriguing fixtures in our weekly Five to Watch feature.

Littlehampton Town v North Shields

Venue: The Sportsfield

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Date: Saturday 12th March

Competition: Buildbase FA Vase Quarter-Final

Kick-off: 3pm

North Shields are the Northern League’s sole survivor in this season’s FA Vase and they currently sit potentially just 180 minutes away from a return to Wembley.

The Robins lifted the Vase as recently as 2015 and they will have to overcome a significant challenge if they want to move one step closer to the arch this weekend.

With just four defeats in 30 league games and 106 goals scored, Southern Combination League Premier Division leaders Littlehampton Town will provide a serious test for a North Shields defence that have conceded just 19 goals in 26 league games this season.

A more than potent attack against one of the most solid defences in North East non-league football - this one could provide anything for anyone making their way to the South Coast this weekend.

Player to watch: Dan Wilson (North Shields)

Spennymoor Town v Kettering Town

Venue: International Stadium

Date: Saturday 12th March

Competition: Vanarama National League North

Kick-off: 3pm

Slowly but surely, Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley are putting their own imprint of the Spennymoor Town squad.

There have been several comings and goings over the last month and their impressive midweek win at play-off chasing Chorley shows progress is being made.

Another side with top seven credentials, Kettering Town, will visit Brewery Field this weekend as the Moors look to keep alive any hope they have of extending their own season.

Glen Taylor, as ever, will be integral, but to suggest the prolific frontman is the only threat possessed by his side would be foolish.

There is a fresh feel about the Moors with several new additions and a win over the Poppies would only enhance the feeling that the changes are making an impact.

Player to watch: Glen Taylor (Spennymoor Town)

Dunston UTS v Liversedge

Venue: UTS Stadium

Date: Saturday 12th March

Competition: Pitching-In Northern Premier League East

Kick-off: 3pm

Dunston UTS head into Saturday’s home game with title-chasing Liversedge looking to keep alive their own hopes of securing a play-off place.

Chris Swailes’ men have been in fine form of late after losing just one of their last nine games and they possess a striker in the middle of a remarkable purple patch.

Former Sunderland academy forward Michael Fowler has plundered his way to ten goals in nine appearances since joining Dunston at the start of the year.

He will be crucial to their hopes of springing what would be a surprise win over their visitors, who have lost just one of their 27 league fixtures so far this season.

Fowler will also meet the division’s meanest defence with the Sedge travelling to the North East having conceded just 17 league goals this season.

Player to watch: Michael Fowler (Dunston UTS)

Ashington v Seaham Red Star

Venue: The dwmedia Stadium

Date: Saturday 12th March

Competition: Ebac Northern League Division One

Kick-off: 3pm

Ashington’s home game with Seaham Red Star will be a meeting of one side performing above expectations meeting one that will feel they should be.

Seaham’s trip to Northumberland will offer them a chance to try and break out of a frustrating run of form.

Mark Collingwood’s men have flirted with a top ten place all season and have been left frustrated in recent weeks with three consecutive home draws against West Allotment Celtic, Guisborough Town and Penrith.

The six points dropped in those games would have lifted Red Star into the top eight and would have allowed Collingwood to attack the top six, which he has routinely spoken of as a target through the season.

They meet an Ashington side that are currently sat in the top four of the division and are just two points behind second placed Thornaby.

Ian Skinner has done a fine job putting together a blend of promising young prospects and battle-hardened, experienced players.

Goals and entertainment seem guaranteed.

Player to watch: Craig Spooner (Ashington)

Billingham Synthonia v Sunderland West End

Venue: Norton Sports Complex

Date: Saturday 12th March

Competition: Ebac Northern League Division Two

Kick-off: 3pm

The FA’s decision to introduce play-offs in the second tier of the Northern League has provided an intriguing addition to the end of the season.

Sunderland West End are enjoying their most productive season as a Northern League club and sit in second place in the table ahead of this weekend’s games.

A push for the title seems just out of reach, but their hopes of securing a play-off place are very much alive ahead of their meeting with Synners.

The hosts sit two places and three points outside of the play-off spots after a run of three wins in their last four games.

Off-field issues have been swept aside for now and the club look focused on regaining their place in Division One.

A home win would move Synners to within a point of their visitors and added further intrigue to an already thrilling play-off picture.

Player to watch: Max Craggs (Billingham Synthonia)

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