After weeks of permutations, in the end the equation is quite simple for South Shields.
Beat Morpeth Town at Mariners Park tomorrow and they’re champions of the Northern League with two games to spare.
We’re hoping for a big crowd tomorrow coming to back us, and hopefully we can win the league for themCarl Finnigan
That they’re in this position, just a matter of weeks after falling 17 points behind North Shields in the title race, is remarkable, with 32 wins in a row in all competitions having put them into pole position.
Now their task is to ensure there is not one last sting in the tail.
Morpeth – the team they have been so intrinsically linked with over the past two seasons – could yet pip Shields to the title.
Realistically, they need a win at Mariners Park tomorrow to keep those hopes alive, as anything other than that would leave Shields needing a maximum of one victory from their final two fixtures.
There is no love lost between Shields and Morpeth since the much talked-about FA Vase third round tie in January.
Morpeth were leading 4-2 at Mariners Park before the generator failed, causing the floodlights to go out. Shields won the rearranged game 4-0 and have since went on to reach the final.
Striker Carl Finnigan says the Mariners, who are already assured of promotion, need to back up that victory with another tomorrow.
He said: “A lot of stuff has been said and a lot has gone on since that game, but football is unpredictable.
“It was one of those things where no one was at fault, and we dealt with it better to come out on top.
“It’s up to us to back that up tomorrow.
“We’ve got our goal, which is to win the league, and no matter who we’re up against tomorrow we’ve got to go out and beat them.”
Finnigan scored a hat-trick on Tuesday as Shields warmed up for tomorrow’s crunch clash with a comfortable 4-0 win over Marske United.
However, Morpeth are still in with a shout after ending North Shields’ title fight with a 2-1 victory at the Daren Persson Stadium on Wednesday.
The Highwaymen are third in the table, seven points behind Shields with a game in hand, and have won their last 10 matches in the league.
Finnigan, though, is confident of the Mariners’ chances.
He added: “Morpeth are on a good run as well, but they haven’t won 32 in a row, so there’s no one got more confidence than us.
“We’ll certainly take that confidence into the game and hopefully we can come out on top.”
After tomorrow’s game, Shields face trips to Ashington and Guisborough Town to complete their league campaign.
This is their final home fixture of a season which has seen crowds regularly top 1,000 at Mariners Park, and Finnigan wants to end the home campaign on a high to reward the support of the fans – and give them a title victory.
He said: “The support we get is phenomenal.
“To come here on a Tuesday night like we did this week and be supported by 1,500 fans is unbelievable.
“The boys appreciate it and it doesn’t go unnoticed.
“The supporters are getting entertainment as well, so I guess it’s a win-win for both.
“We’re hoping for a big crowd tomorrow coming to back us, and hopefully we can win the league for them.”
Shields will remain without Leepaul Scroggins and Stephen Ramsey tomorrow as both continue their recoveries from a broken leg.
Dillon Morse is also expected to miss out with the ankle injury he picked up in last week’s win at North Shields, while Michael Richardson could return.
Kick-off at Mariners Park is at 3pm, and admission prices – to be paid at the turnstiles – are £6 for adults, £4 for students and over-65s, and £2 for under-16s.