South Shields aim to end memorable year on a high on Boxing Day

Robert Briggs' FA Vase winner against Runcorn Linnets in October was one of South Shields' highlights of the year. Image by Peter Talbot.
Robert Briggs' FA Vase winner against Runcorn Linnets in October was one of South Shields' highlights of the year. Image by Peter Talbot.

South Shields will bid to end a memorable year on a high on Boxing Day as they host Penrith at Mariners Park.

The Mariners are in excellent form, having won 16 of their last 17 games in all competitions.

We’re really looking forward to getting some good crowds over the Christmas period and into the New Year

Graham Fenton

Their Boxing Day fixture, which kicks off at 2pm, will bring the curtain down on a year which brought them the Northern League Division Two title and several incredible moments, not least of which Warren Byrne’s Budweiser Dream Goal-winning strike at Tow Law Town in April.

They are set to head into 2017 in the midst of a battle for promotion from Division One, and sit second ahead of the clash with Penrith.

Eight of their next nine fixtures in all competitions are at home, and joint manager Graham Fenton is looking forward to an exciting period ahead.

He said: “The pitch is magnificent at our place at the moment, and hopefully it’s going to continue as it is.

“We’re really looking forward to getting some good crowds over the Christmas period and into the New Year.

“We start that with the game against Penrith, and we’re expecting a tough test. I’m sure they’ll be expecting the same.

“Tomorrow will be our third training session since the game against Washington (last weekend) to keep the lads ticking over and nice and sharp.

“We’re really looking forward to Boxing Day and have had to prepare correctly.”

Over the course of 2016 so far, Shields have won 45 of their 60 games, with seven draws and eight defeats in all competitions.

They will hope for similar figures in 2017, and go into the new year knowing that a top-three finish would be enough to secure promotion – providing the only other applicants, Bishop Auckland, do not finish ahead of them. Bishops are currently 21 points behind the Mariners with a game in hand.

Penrith sit 16th going into Monday’s fixture, and are set to be without star striker Martyn Coleman, who spent the second half of last season with Shields.

Coleman, with 16 league goals to his name so far this term, is suspended.

Shields, meanwhile, are expected to welcome striker Gavin Cogdon back into the fold after missing over two months with a groin injury.

Cogdon has been back in training over the last fortnight, and although he did not make the squad for the 6-2 win at Washington last Saturday, he is expected to be ready to return on Boxing Day.

Fenton added: “We were just being a little bit cautious with Titch last weekend.

“He had trained a couple of times and came through the sessions with no issues.

“By the time this game comes around, he should have had three more training sessions, so all being well, he’ll be ready for a place in the squad.”

Captain Leepaul Scroggins could also make his first appearance since October, having been an unused sub at Washington following his recovery from a knee injury.

Louis Storey has returned to light training after suffering a broken leg earlier this season, but is not yet ready to resume playing.

Kick-off at Mariners Park is at 2pm, with the majority of the rest of the Northern League programme taking place from 11am.

Admission prices – to be paid at the turnstiles – are £6 for adults, £4 for students and over-65s, and £2 for under-16s.