Matlock Town face off against South Shields on Saturday afternoon at The Proctor Cars Stadium in what is surely Matlock's biggest league game for a number of years.

The Gladiators come into this game three points clear of South Shields at the top of the Northern Premier League Premier Division, following a 3-1 away victory at struggling Grantham Town earlier this week.

This is a fascinating game for Paul Phillips's team; it's sure to be Matlock's biggest test of the season so far as they look to preserve their 100% win record in the league this season at the Proctor Cars Stadium against the title favourites. With both teams doing so well added with South Shields's notoriously large fan base for this level, an attendance of four figures could well be on the cards.

This top of the table clash should provide us with a strong indicator as to just how far this team has come under the leadership of Paul Phillips and also as to whether Matlock are capable of being at the top of the table in the final stages of the 2021/22 campaign.

The Opposition

South Shields currently sit in second position in the NPL Premier Division league table and are three points behind the Gladiators. The title favourites have won 10 of their 15 league games so far this season and have lost just two. In their most recent match, South Shields beat their local rivals Morpeth Town at home 2-0 thanks to goals from Nathan Lowe and Sam Hodgson. In their most recent away trip, South Shields lost 3-0 to Bamber Bridge in the league.

The club were founded in 1974 and are affectionately known as The Mariners. The club play their home games at the 1st Cloud Arena in the town of South Shields which is situated in Tyne and Wear in the north-east of England. The trip to the 1st Cloud Arena later on in the season will be Matlock Town's second longest away trip of the 2021/22 league campaign. The stadium can hold up to 3,500 spectators.

The manager of The Mariners is former Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers and Leicester City player Graham Fenton. The 47 year-old took over as South Shields's manager five years ago. Before that, he was North Shields's manager for four years. As a player, Fenton won the League Cup twice (once with Aston Villa and once with Leicester City) and also won the Football League Trophy in 2002 with Blackpool. As a manager, Fenton won the FA Vase in 2015 with his North Shields team as they beat Derbyshire outfit Glossop North End 2-1 in the final. Fenton also won the FA Vase with South Shields in 2017.

The Mariners have enjoyed plenty of successes in the past few years. As well as their FA Vase triumph in 2017, South Shields also won the Northern Premier League Division One North title in the 2017-18 season which saw them promoted to the NPL Premier Division. The Mariners also won the Durham Challenge Cup four years ago. It's fair to say that South Shields can count themselves to be pretty unfortunate to still be in this league. In the 2019-20 season, the Mariners were well clear at the top of the NPL Premier Division when the Covid pandemic first struck. The NPL Premier Division were one of only a few leagues that decided to null and void the season and the Mariners were denied promotion when so many other teams in their exact same situation were granted it

Two of South Shields's honorary presidents are none other than Little Mix's Jade Thirlwall and former Labour MP David Miliband!

One to Watch

Defender Blair Adams will be a key player to look out for on Saturday. The 30 year-old, who plays for his hometown club, was appointed as the club's captain last month.

Adams has played previously for the likes of Brentford, Coventry City and Notts County and has even made two appearances for the England U20 side.

The left-back joined his hometown club three years ago.

Team News

Reece Kendall will be unavailable for this game due to suspension.

It still remains unclear as to whether Jamie Sharman is ready to come back just yet but long-term absentee Jerome Greaves should be available for selection.

Previous Meeting

The two sides ended up playing each other before last season was null and voided. On October 17 last year, Matlock Town pulled off an outstanding 1-0 victory against the Mariners in the league at the 1st Cloud Arena. Alex Byrne scored the only goal of the game in the 71st minute in front of a Covid-restricted crowd of 300.

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