SOUTH Shields refuse to throw in the towel with manager Jon King adamant the Mariners are in with a chance of avoiding the drop.
His confidence is based on the fact that the Shieldsmen have won five games on the bounce and he’s hopeful of making it six against Whitley Bay at Hillheads this afternoon.
He said: “A few weeks ago, we weren’t given a chance. Let’s face it, we looked dead and buried but all of a sudden we’ve upped our game and who’s to say we can’t win our last four matches.
“The lads know that they have to treat every one as a cup final – but this is the way we’ve been playing in the last few weeks.
“In a way the pressure is off us because people expect us to go there today and get nothing but our confidence is good and I know the players will raise their game.” A triple blow for King is the absence through suspension of Lee Bell, Barrie Smith and Kenny Ball.
In addition, Andy Barclay is given only a 50-50 chance of making it but Tony Coe and Adam Burnicle are back.
Whitley Bay boss Ian Chandler welcomes the return of James Novak, Brad Brooking, Lee Paul Scroggins and Lee Kerr but Callum Anderson, Chris Reid, David Pounder and Ian Watson are all struggling with injuries.
The Seahorses are fighting for a top-three finish, while Dunston UTS and Ashington will be happy if they are in the leading six come the end of the season.
Dunston are at Sunderland RCA and manager Billy Irwin is hopeful that goalkeeper Liam Connell will be able to turn out. Stephen Goddard and Steven Pickering, meanwhile, are almost certain to be in the squad. Ashington would like to replicate last season’s fifth-top rating but manager Gary Middleton would settle for sixth.
“It took us a while to get over the disappointment of going out of the FA Carlsberg Vase but we picked up and I’m looking for a strong finish,” declared Middleton who goes without leading scorer Marc Walton and Glen Taylor at Celtic Nation.
Durham City boss Adam Furness will be happy to end in the top half of the table.
Going into their last home game against Guisborough Town, he said: “This is really important for us but unfortunately, we are down to the bare bones with Craig Ellison and Steve Jones now added to a long list of absentees.”
Consett manager Kenny Lindoe was always confident his side would steer well clear of the relegation zone once he was able to field his strongest squad.
The Steelmen have surged into ninth place but at home to Billingham Synthonia, Lindoe again has selection problems.
Keiran Martin is on trial in Holland, Scott Martindale suspended while both David Scorer and ace marksman Michael Mackay are injured.
Hebburn Town raised a few eyebrows with the start they made after returning to the top flight following a long absence, but since the turn of the year their form has dipped.
Paul Bennett’s side, though, put enough points on the board in the first half of the season to stave off any threat of relegation but they will surely be put to the test when FA Carlsberg Vase finalists Spennymoor Town arrive on South Tyneside. “I’ve got five players out so any sort of result will be a bonus,” declared Bennett, who misses brothers Dean and Stuart Nicholson, Stephen Foster, Lee Harrison and Jeff Forsyth.
In Division Two, Jarrow Roofing will aim to enhance their promotion prospects when they line-up with Northallerton Town.
Following the goalless draw at North Shields in midweek, Roofing are third with Morpeth Town their biggest challengers for the last remaining promotion spot.
Crook Town and Ryhope CW have already clinched two of three places – although Ryhope’s future is in doubt because they didn’t carry out improvements to their ground before the deadline date of March 31. They await a decision from the FA.