By Glen Robertson
Newton Aycliffe will break into the top five of the Northern League first division if they extend their unbeaten league run at South Shields tonight.
With no other member of the top six playing, Aycliffe can overtake FA Vase semi-finalists Dunston by avoiding defeat against the struggling Mariners.
A victory would take the club level on points with fourth-placed Whitley Bay, and just five points off the top of the table.
While the title will be out of reach due to a number of clubs enjoying as many as seven games in hand over Aycliffe, it is still a remarkable inaugural season and there is a possibility that the club could achieve a top five finish.
With seven games left for Aycliffe, they enjoy the privilege of only having one mid-week game while teams like Dunston will be playing Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday in order to complete their fixture list.
But before Aycliffe can have any dreams of a top-five finish, they must overcome a tricky midweek trip to South Shields.
The Mariners are struggling down in 17th in the league and sit just four points off the relegation zone, but they have the ability to spring major surprises which the Newtonians are all too painfully aware of.
Back in October, Aycliffe were hammered 4-1 by Jon King’s side at Moore Lane Park, and the Mariners have also beaten Whitley Bay and Sunderland RCA, and earned a point in a 10-goal thriller against West Auckland.
But Aycliffe travel to Filtrona Park in exceptional form. Allan Oliver’s side have not been beaten in the league since the first weekend in December and Saturday’s goalless draw away at Sunderland RCA stretched the club’s unbeaten run to 11 games.
The hosts, however, have had a tricky few weeks, losing three of their last four, and all of those games came against fellow relegation-threatened clubs.
At the weekend they drew away at Stokesley – a club who now have a season tally of just three points, while the week before they threw away a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 against Jarrow Roofing.
Kick-off for South Shields versus Newton Aycliffe is 7.30pm, at Filtrona Park, Shaftesbury Avenue, NE32 3UP. Admission is £5 for adults and £3 concessions.