Redcar Athletic host the faltering title-favourites, as the curtains are drawn on yet another turbulent year at Green Lane.
From staggering heights to heart-wrenching lows, 2023 has brought a concoction of joy, success and tears to the shorelines of Redcar.
This afternoon, it meets a fitting end, as the Steelmen grace the hallowed turf at Green Lane for one final time before the turn of the year, tasked with upsetting the reeling title-favourites in Shildon AFC.
Once invincible in the Northern League, Shildon faced heavy upheaval at Dean Street to snatch a point from the grasp of a plucky Redcar Athletic, yet have since fallen to two shock defeats.
In much the same vein, Redcar have struggled to maintain the momentum from their stunning turn of form, tasting bitter defeat to their local rivals, Guisborough Town, in last weekend’s East Cleveland derby.
Here’s everything you need to know as the once table-topping Railwaymen mark the closing affair of 2023…
WHO ARE YA?
Formed in 1890 as Shildon Town, the Railwaymen burned through a number of mergers, and temporarily folded, before the inception of the Shildon AFC that exists today.
After a short stint in the semi-professional game, Shildon joined the Northern League, wining a commendable four successive titles before the second world war, a record only over-hauled by Blyth Spartans in 1984.
Still, their greatest success has come in the past three seasons, as a points-per-game promotion saw the Railwaymen grace step four on the English footballing pyramid for the first time in 2021.
Back in the Northern League for the 2023/24 campaign, Shildon still ply their trade at the historic Dean Street Stadium.
The long-standing home of the Railwaymen, the doors to the so-called J Denham Metals Stadium – and its impressive grandstand – opened in 1923.
The ground has undergone some hefty change since, with a new main stand erected on the opposite side of the pitch, but the gradure of its original structure remains intact to this day.
LAST TIME OUT
Gary Forster took flight from Durham in high spirits in November, having perhaps bettered the league-leaders in their own backyard.
The first competitive bout between the two clubs in the short history of Redcar Athletic, the travelling Steelmen matched Shildon at their physical game, drawing first blood through a clinical back post finish from Joe Thompson.
Their hopes of a season-first upset against the Railwaymen ultimately fell short under mounting pressure, as Andrei-Vasile Ardelean notched his customary goal to settle the affair as a draw.
WATCH | Shildon 1-1 Redcar Athletic
Where Forster highlighted improving standards, defeat to Guisborough Town could mark a frustrating step back.
WATCH | Redcar Athletic 1-2 Guisborough Town
The Steelmen were stunned late on in their attempts to hold off insurmountable pressure from their East Cleveland rivals, in part due to the controversial dismissal of Anthony Bell.
The captain’s resulting suspension adds to the pool of frustrating disciplinary issues that have plagued Gary Forster’s outfit this season, with the regular absence of key figures hindering the ability to maintain a consistent side.
The same cannot be said about the visiting Railwaymen, a side who until last weekend proved invincible in the Northern League.
In fact, Shildon’s recent woes began at the back end of November, as Joe Thomspon’s early strike denied a home win for only the second time in their league campaign.
Shildon followed up the ‘stalemate’ with a defeat to West Auckland Town, shattering their unbeaten record, before crashing out of the Durham FA Challenge Cup at the hands of Crook Town.
A phrase all to common for Redcar Athletic this year, suspensions are to hamper Gary Forster’s team selection ahead of this afternoon’s contest.
Where the Redcar boss’s headache eased last weekend, the second half dismissal of Anthony Bell brings another lengthy hiatus, with the absence of the captain yet another void to fill.
Bell joins stalwart central defender, Adam Wheatley, on the sidelines, as yet another invaluable figure to miss the action across the turn of the year.
All the need-to-know information for the Green Lane finale of 2023 can be found in our matchday information package.