Lancaster City ready for top of table clash with South Shields
Lancaster boss Mark Fell believes nothing will be decided this weekend – even if his team fail to beat league leaders South Shields.
The second-placed Dolly Blues welcome the table toppers to Giant Axe knowing defeat would see them drop six points behind, having played three games more.
But if City can claim all three points, Fell thinks it could throw the title race wide open with clubs like third-placed Basford United and FC United, in fourth, also still in the frame for the one automatic promotion place.
Whatever happens, Fell is well aware that this weekend’s result will be significant despite the fact that there are plenty of games left in the NPL Premier Division season.
“A win on Saturday would certainly help our automatic promotion chances,” said Fell.
“But nothing will be decided this weekend because we will still have 16 games left to play.
“From the title perspective, if they were to win it this weekend and with the games in hand that they have got, they could be looking at opening up a 10-point plus advantage over us and that’s going to be significant.
“But if we were to win the game, I think it throws it wide open especially when you look at some of the games and teams that they have still got to play.”
City head into the game with the boost of knowing that they have got what it takes to beat the Mariners.
It was at the start of November when they headed to the North East and returned with a 1-0 victory, but Fell thinks supporters can’t read too much into that.
“We beat them at their place, but I think they are a different side at home to what they are away from home,” he said. “When we won there, it was a real dogged performances by us but I think this weekend will be a very different game.
“They had a lot of the ball at their place and I think at home, we will be able to show that we have got the players who can get on the ball and hurt them.
“But make no mistake about it, they are a big strong, physical side and have players who should be playing at a higher level. It’s a tough assignment for us but we can take heart that we got the job done at their place.”
Lancaster’s squad is boosted by the return, on loan, of Preston North End defender Jack Armer.
The 18-year-old spent the first four months of the season at Giant Axe and produced some impressive performances – so much so that he was recalled in early December by his parent club.
North End boss Alex Neil gave him a spot on the substitutes’ bench for the Championship clash against West Bromwich Albion with PNE struggling to cope with a series of injuries.
“I think it was no surprise that we went on a bit of a bad run after Jack went back,” said Fell.
“I have been bending the ear of a few people I know at PNE and it looks like that has paid off. He was terrific for us and is a big, strong, physical player who is a winner.”
As City prepare for what they hope will be the promotion run-in, Fell is still hoping he can strengthen his squad with at least a couple of new
He will be without Sam Bailey and Paul Dawson this weekend. Bailey serves the second of a three-match band, while Dawson will be available after Saturday’s match.