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NPL Match Preview: South Shields vs Atherton Collieries

South Shields welcome Atherton Collieries to 1st Cloud Arena on Saturday as they aim to maintain their fine form in the Pitching In Northern Premier League (3pm kick-off).

The Mariners have yet to taste defeat this season and are top of the table heading into the clash with their visitors from Greater Manchester.

They have also won their last six matches in all competitions – most recently beating Shildon 5-0 in the Emirates FA Cup last Saturday – but Atherton have also impressed in the early weeks of the campaign.

Brad Cooke’s side are unbeaten away from home and have collected 11 points from their opening eight fixtures to leave them in 12th position.

The Colls look in good shape to improve on their efforts from last season, when they finished fourth-bottom in their first full campaign in the seventh tier.

Manager’s views

Shields manager Kevin Phillips is aware of the threat posed by Atherton, who have won their last two league games and have an excellent defensive record.

He is confident, though, in his team’s ability to continue their impressive form.

Phillips said: “We give every opponent the respect they deserve, but our record at home has been outstanding and we are determined to continue that.

“Atherton will believe they can take points from us, and it’s up to us to approach the game correctly mentally, do the right things and ensure our quality shines through to get us the result we’re looking for.

“We expect Atherton to be difficult to break down and we may have to be patient at times, and be prepared for their threat on the counter-attack.

“We have dealt with that kind of challenge well so far this season and that has been reflected in our results.”

Shields are full of confidence following their impressive start to the campaign, but Phillips insists there are areas they can improve in.

He added: “To win six matches in succession at any level is some going, and the players deserve real credit, but we must not get carried away.

“Myself, the staff and the players still feel we have lots of room for improvement, although you can’t argue with the results we’ve had so far this season.

“We’ve shown many sides to our game in those last six wins, including impressive battling qualities, ability on the ball and organisation. Some of the passages of play have been outstanding.

“We always have to strive for more, because each team wants to take points from us and will be motivated to stop our run of form.

“Atherton will be no different on Saturday.”

Team news

Shields remain without striker JJ Hooper, who is recovering from a hamstring injury, but hope to have Jordan Hunter and Darius Osei back available.

Information for supporters

Kick-off at 1st Cloud Arena is at 3pm and tickets are priced at £12 for adults, £9 for students, over-65s and disabled supporters, £5 for those aged 13 to 16 and £3 for under-12s.

A £2 upgrade is available for those wishing to seat – but this is only available for those who purchase tickets in advance. Supporters can buy tickets in advance by clicking here or pay at the turnstiles, which are set to open at 12.30pm. Turnstile 2 will accept cash, with all other turnstiles to accept card only. There is no segregation in place at this fixture.

Happy Hour pricing will be in operation in all bars between 12.30pm and 2pm, with a second Happy Hour to begin immediately following the final whistle and last until 6pm.

A match programme, packed with content, is available to purchase for £3 and also acts as a raffle ticket, with one lucky programme holder to win a signed SSFC shirt. Check the back of your programme for your lucky number, with the winner to be drawn at half-time.

Supporters are also reminded that this is the first fixture affected by the suspension of the Tyne and Wear Metro line between South Shields and Pelaw. Alternative public transport options are available and are outlined here.

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