It’s been a strange old year so far for North East Non-League football, but in the grand scheme of things an ultimately successful one. Blyth Spartans and Gateshead had fantastic FA Cup runs to the Third Round, North Shields and Dunston UTS are going well in the Vase and Ashington have captured national headlines with their appointment of former England cricketer and local lad Steve Harmison. The Non-League scene is thriving and in particular the race for the Northern League Division One title is hotting up and that is where this weekend’s recommended fixture takes place.
With no Newcastle United fixture this weekend why not get along and support your local club? It promises to be a fantastic weekend of Northern League football and with Gateshead and Heaton Stannington offering special deals for NUFC season ticket holders there is plenty on offer to fill in your Saturday and keep you out of Asda / Ikea /Metrocentr /Garden Centre(Delete as appropriate)
Whilst the folks at TF are quite rightly triumphing the cause of the hardy folks at Grounsell Park, home of Heaton Stannington we will offer an alternative and it comes from the Northern League title race and this weekend could be key for where the trophy goes come May.
With title challengers Shildon and Marske United facing each other in County Durham we have selected the fixture between a bouyant North Shields and fellow contenders West Auckland Town, that will take place in front of a packed section of the Curva Nord on North Tyneside.
Quite frankly the Robins are rocking(sorry!) at the moment with progress into the Quarter Finals of the FA Vase adding to a title challenge that many thought would suffer. See Mr Ashley, league and cup success is possible!. Anyway back to Shields. Under the leadership of Graham Fenton (Ed: booo)and Andy Bowman the Robins have a superb attacking line-up with the prolific striking talents of Gareth Bainbridge being provided by jet heeled wingers Dean Holmes and Denver Morris.
They have a solid defence marshalled by the excellent John Parker – who will face one of his former clubs on Saturday – and in midfield they are strong, solid and workmanlike. The job Fenton has done at Shields can’t be underestimated and surely clubs higher up the pyramid must be looking at him, not that he has reason to leave a club who are clearly on the up.
Their visitors West Auckland Town have had a bizarre season so far. An expected title challenge is taking place but they are on to their fourth manager of the season after the departures of Peter Dixon, Anth Smith and more recently Andy Toman. Stephen Skinner is the new man in charge and he has eased himself into the role with his side producing some confident displays, although the recent home defeat to another title challenger Guisborough Town will have hurt them.
They do possess a number of talented players and will be up for the game against Shields as both sides look to hammer home their title credentials. West can call upon a number of players with experience higher up the league pyramid including goalkeeper Dan Lowson and former Newcastle United academy lads Dennis Knight and Alex Francis.
This should be an absolute cracker on North Tyneside and after their win over Phoenix Sports in the Vase I really think that it will be Shields who will win this one, although it may only be by the odd goal.
KICK OFF – 3pm
STADIUM ADDRESS – Daren Persson Stadium, West Percy Road, North Shields,
Tyne & Wear. NE29 6UA 
TICKET PRICES – £6 adults, £3 concessions
NEAREST METRO – Meadowell or North Shields (Pretty much equal distance between both)
CONFERENCE: Gateshead v Nuneaton Town *
EVO-STIK NPL FIRST DIVISION NORTH: Spennymoor Town v Radcliffe Borough
NORTHERN LEAGUE DIVISION ONE: Ashington v Sunderland RCA, Durham City v Penrith, Guisborough Town v Consett, Morpeth Town v Bishop Auckland, Newton Aycliffe v Celtic Nation, North Shields v West Auckland Town, Shildon v Marske United, Whitley Bay v Billingham Synthonia
NORTHERN LEAGUE DIVISION TWO: Alnwick Town v Norton and Stockton Ancients, Billingham Town v Birtley Town, Chester-le-Street Town v South Shields, Darlington RA v Esh Winning, Heaton Stannington v Ryton and Crawcrook Albion **, Hebburn Town v Brandon United, Team Northumbria v Northallerton Town, Washington v Stokesley Sports Club, Whickham vSeaham Red Star, Willington v Ryhope CW
_* Gateshead FC are offering a £5 saving on Conference Premier League
home games for NUFC season ticket holders. On production of their
current ST card, adult admission to the Tyne and wear Stand is £10. _
** NUFC Season ticket holders can gain entry to Heaton Stannington v
Ryton and Crawcrook Albion for just £2 upon production of their season
MARK CARRUTHERS – FOR THE LOVE OF FOOTBALL