Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Mariners Get the Winning Habit; SKILLTRAININGLTD NORTHERN LEAGUE

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Mariners Get the Winning Habit; SKILLTRAININGLTD NORTHERN LEAGUE

Article excerpt

Byline: MALCOLM PRATT

SOUTH Shields and Ashington, the two most improved sides, start the New Year in the top four of the Skilltrainingltd Northern League First Division.

Last season, the Mariners ended just outside the relegation zone when they managed just nine wins in 42 games but already they have racked up 16 victories and line-up at Chester-le-Street - the only side in the two divisions yet to draw - this afternoon, just three points behind second-top Whitley Bay.

It has certainly been a rags to riches transformation engineered by manager Gary Steadman whose side has not only been successful but also played entertaining football.

The Cestrians are seventh from bottom and although they have scored 49 times, more than any other team outside the top six, they have conceded 69 goals which is the highest of any team.

Manager Stuart Sherwood should have Damien Maw available in a full strength squad.

Ashington ended seventh from basement last time but are up to fourth under Gary Middleton's direction. Their game with Newcastle Benfield, however, became a very early casualty when it was called off on Thursday.

Only three other teams have conceded fewer goals than Ashington and Middleton, who took over last summer, will hope his defence remains mean. When they are able to resume, Middleton will have all his defenders available but it is uncertain when midfielder Robbie Cockburn and striker Joe Race will be able to play.

Newcastle Benfield boss Paul Baker has not given up hope of his team retaining the title although he accepts that Spennymoor Town and Whitley Bay will take some beating.

He said: "I wasn't here last season but I know the team came from nowhere to win the championship in their last game. We are handily placed in sixth position and who knows what will happen during the second half of the season. …

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