North Shields boss Graham Fenton believes Saturday’s Ebac Northern League first division clash against Ashington at Woodhorn Lane will be a pre-Christmas cracker.
The two sides served up an absorbing contest recently which the Robins won by the odd goal in five after being two-nil down after 17 minutes.
Now Fenton, a football coach at Monkseaton High School in Whitley Bay, is hoping his side can improve on their away form.
“Looking at the league table, we are not as good away from home,” he said.
“However, we have already visited top teams like West Auckland, Shildon and Marske United, and our form looks poor, but we are nevertheless confident that we can go and give a good account of ourselves at Ashington.
“We will be wanting to claim an early double, but when you play opponents twice in quick succession, they will want to get their own back and I will be preparing the lads for what I believe will be a tough, competitive game – a Christmas cracker – but in the hope that we will come out on top.
“I know Gareth Bainbridge is ruled out for us but then Ashington will be weakened by the absence of Glen Taylor and Tony Stephenson.”
Forty-year-old Fenton believed the turning point in the clash a fortnight ago centred on a spot kick.
He added: “Ashington were very clinical and got a couple of chances from our mistakes, but I thought we did well in the first period between the two boxes.
“We had a lot of possession but in our box we didn’t defend well enough and in the other box we didn’t finish well enough.
“The big moment came when we were 2-0 down and our keeper Chris Bannon saved Kyle Oliver’s penalty because had the score gone to 3-0 it might have been difficult for us to get back into the game.
“We had a lot of shots in the first period without troubling Conor Grant, but I thought we deserved to win the game on the whole as we were the better team and showed a lot of character to bounce back.
“The lads are playing with a lot of confidence which comes when you win game after game.
“They believe in what they are doing and are playing to the best of their ability.
“They had acquitted themselves really well and are enjoying every moment – and we are well ahead of our targets set at the beginning of the season.”
Meanwhile Shields, still buoyant after their dazzling 4-2 midweek success at Hillheads against Whitley Bay, saw their scheduled trip to Billingham Synthonia postponed on Saturday due to a frozen pitch.
The win at Whitley was their first Northern League victory at that venue since back in 1984.
Then it was a quick 4-1 double for the Robins inside four days.
The sides have barely met since Shields secured the Northumberland Senior Cup at St James’ Park in 1991 thanks to a Tony Burgess strike.
Shields assistant boss Andy Bowman said: “The season so far has been a huge shock as to just how well we have done. We knew the players from last season had quality and were good enough, though there were some doubters.
“Everyone has played their part – players,committee and fans to get us this far.
“Although we are up challenging the leaders we know the other sides are more than useful and it will be hard going to keep up there.”
“The FA Vase is a nice distraction and all we can do is progress as far as we can, we certainly won’t be taking our foot off the gas.”
That Vase match is on Saturday, January 17, at home to Consett, with a return visit to Seaham Red Star set for January 20 in the Northern League Cup.