Matlock Town are involved in yet another first versus second clash on Saturday afternoon in the Northern Premier League Premier Division.
The Gladiators are currently three points clear at the top of the league following a six game unbeaten run in the NPL Premier Division. In their last six league games, Paul Phillips's team have registered 16 points from a possible 18.
This game marks a huge test of Matlock Town's title credentials.
South Shields currently sit in second position in the Northern Premier League Premier Division and are three points behind Matlock Town. The north-east outfit are in excellent form. They're currently on a four match winning streak and are unbeaten in their past five games. In their most recent game on Tuesday earlier this week, South Shields beat Witton Albion 3-1 at home in the league. An early goal from Cedric Main and a brace from Sam Hodgson secured all three points for South Shields. In the league so far this season, South Shields have won nine of their 14 games at home.
South Shields were founded in 1974 and are nicknamed the Mariners. They play their home games at the 1st Cloud Arena which is situated in the coastal town of South Shields within the county of Tyne and Wear. The stadium can hold up to 3,500 spectators.
Their manager is none other than Sunderland legend and former England international Kevin Phillips. Phillips was only appointed as the new Mariners manager on the 16th of January after the South Shields board decided to sack Graham Fenton in a surprise move. Phillips has won both of his games that he's managed so far for South Shields. Despite this being his first managerial role, Phillips has coached for a number of years now. After his playing career finished, Phillips worked as Leicester City's assistant manager before moving to Derby County in the same role. Phillips also went on to work as a coach for Stoke City. His playing career included many highlights in an excellent career. He's a hero at Sunderland where he ended up winning the European Golden Shoe, the Premier League Player of the Year and the Premier League Golden Boot award following an outstanding 1999-2000 season. Phillips also has the notable distinction of winning promotion to the Premier League on five occasions with five different teams. He also went on to make eight appearances for England's senior team.
South Shields are the only full-time club in the NPL Premier Division.
The last piece of silverware they lifted was the Northern Premier League Division One North league title in the 2017-18 season. The Mariners also won the FA Vase in the 2016-17 campaign.
South Shields were comfortably clear at the top of the NPL Premier Division in the 2019-20 campaign when the season was brought to a halt by the beginning of the Covid pandemic. The decision to null and void the entire league rather than end the season based on 'points per game' prevented South Shields from winning the league title and getting promoted to the National League North which caused plenty of controversy and outraged the club.
One of the club's honorary presidents is none other than Little Mix singer Jade Thirlwall!
One to Watch
24 year-old forward Cedric Main will be a key player to keep an eye out for on Saturday afternoon.
Main was born in Suriname and also holds Dutch citizenship. He's scored in both games for South Shields since Kevin Phillips took over the reins at the club.
The striker joined South Shields from FC United of Manchester in October of this season.
Goalkeepers Shaun Rowley and Paul Cooper are both still unavailable due to injury.
Ryan Qualter and Terry Hawkridge will need to pass late fitness checks in order to play after they both picked up knocks in the home game against Bamber Bridge.
Nathan Okome has returned to Chorley following a short loan spell with the Gladiators.
South Shields won 1-0 in the reverse fixture between these two teams on October 16 at The Proctor Cars Stadium this season.
Darius Osei scored the only goal of the game in the 62nd minute in front of a bumper crowd of 1,364.