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NPL Match Preview: South Shields vs Stafford Rangers

South Shields are back in Pitching In Northern Premier League action on Saturday when they welcome Stafford Rangers to 1st Cloud Arena (3pm kick-off).

The sides are separated by just a point, with the Mariners holding the slender advantage, having also played four less games than their opponents.

The Mariners will be buoyed by their return to winning ways last Saturday after they defeated Belper Town 2-1 to climb to seventh in the table.

That places them three positions above Stafford, who are on a run of one win, three draws and two defeats from their last six league fixtures.

Shields have at least three games in hand on all other teams in the league, including leaders Hyde United, who are five points ahead of them.

Manager’s views

Mariners manager Kevin Phillips has urged his team to ignore the form guide and be prepared for the threat Stafford pose.

He said: “Stafford started the season very well and led the pack for a short while, although they have fallen off a bit since then.

“This is a very tight league and there’s not much to separate the top 16 teams in the table, so this will be a test for us.

“We know the kind of threats Stafford possess, including from set-pieces and long throws, so I’m sure they’ll look to get the ball in the box as often as they can.

“We must be switched on for that, but we have dealt with set-pieces well this season.

“As I always say, the main focus is on what we do, and if we play to our capabilities and produce our A game, we’re a match for anyone.”

Team news

Darius Osei is in contention for the Mariners after completing a 28-day loan with Ashton United.

The forward made the temporary move to build his match fitness after recovering from injury, and after striking five goals in seven appearances for Ashton, he has returned to South Tyneside in excellent shape.

Phillips believes Osei is ready to challenge for a starting place.

He said: “We allowed Darius to go out on loan because he had just recovered from injury and needed game-time to get fully up to speed.

“We wanted him to go to Ashton, get a lot of football under his belt and score goals to build his confidence, and he did exactly that.

“He has come back to us full of confidence and ready to push for a place in the team.

“Darius is powerful, quick and knows where the goal is, so we’re delighted to have him back in the fold to challenge our other forward players.”

South Shields remain without injured striker Sam Hodgson, but are hoping for an otherwise clean bill of health.

Information for supporters

Kick-off at 1st Cloud Arena is at 3pm and the turnstiles will open at 12pm.

Tickets are available in advance by clicking here before 12pm on matchday.

Supporters can also pay at the turnstiles, with admission 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. There is an additional charge of £2 for a seat, but these must be purchased in advance.

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 12pm 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 football signed by the SSFC players. Check the back of your programme for your lucky number, with the winner to be drawn at half-time.

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