by Jeff King
The old saying "they don't come much bigger than this," certainly seems to apply at first glance to the huge Wearside League clash tonight at Hilltops Playing Field. First v Second with both going for that Northern League Second Division spot.
Leam Rangers have the upper hand against United this season so far. A 1 - 0 away win back in August 2021 with a goal from Rob Houghton and a penalty shoot-out victory at home in the semi-final of the Alan Hood Charity Cup after a 2 - 2 draw in 90 minutes.
Although there was also the little matter of a Monkwearmouth Charity Cup Semi-Final when United came from 2 - 1 behind to win 7 - 2 sandwiched in between.
But, Leam have been relentless in their search for glory and have matched United every step of the way this season. Their league record of 23 wins, 2 draws and 3 defeats with 110 goals scored and only 23 conceded is exemplary.
They will be a tough, tough nut for United to crack. Particularly with the likes of 40-goal striker Aiden Rutledge, 17-goal midfielder Jonny Hirst, 14-goal wide man Adam Byron and 13-goal schemer Rob Houghton around.
Add in that rock-solid tight, tough defence and it's clear to see why Leam Rangers are in the position they are and how tough it's going to be for United tonight. A win for either side would certainly mean a huge step closer to their goals for both Clubs.
But will it mean a Champions crown to rest on either side's heads? That will remain to be seen. Both still have lots of tough games to play after this one. United will have three league games remaining and Leam Rangers five.
Tonight is huge and likely to be crucial BUT there will still be work to be done for either side regardless of the outcome.