Hebburn Town go into the South Tyneside Derby, a match sponsored by Bolam Premier Sports with the match ball sponsored by Dawson & Sanderson, on the back of some fine Northern League form and a confidence boosting midweek home win – their first of the season – over Darlington.
This is the first South Tyneside Derby since the 2007/08 season where the Mariners defeated the Hornets in both league encounters, with the match at the Hebburn Sports & Social Ground ending in a 1-6 defeat for Town in front of 274 supporters.
Ten points separate Hebburn, who are placed sixth in the Ebac Northern League Division 1, from their local rivals who find themselves third bottom. But despite the away form of the Mariners, who have lost both games on the road this season – including a crushing 11-0 drubbing from Shildon – league form, as we know, goes out of the window somewhat when derby day comes around.
There will be a quick return to Hebburn for Shields defender Lee Bell, who signed for the Hornets during the summer when it looked like the Mariners could be homeless due to ongoing issues with their Filtrona Park ground. However, once the issues were resolved, Bell returned to Shields after failing to make a Hebburn appearance and after a couple of training sessions.
Hebburn players with a keen eye on this fixture include Dan Kirkup, Tony Stephenson and Paul Wardle – all of whom are Mariners old boys. Kirkup signed for South Shields at the start of last season, eventually after the original signing was cancelled by the DFA following an illegal approach, though the signing later went through correctly and the big defender moved from Jarrow Roofing, with Wardle moving in the opposite direction, before arriving at Hebburn before the year was out.
Another former Mariner, the Hebburn Hitman Liam McBryde, will have a fitness test on the morning of the game with the player hoping to return to the match squad. Shields old boy John Toomey returns to the dug-out in his current role of coach after holidays and work commitments kept him away while Lee Harrison continues building his fitness up and will also face a late test to determine his inclusion in the squad.