South Shields are gearing up for arguably their biggest game of the season so far tomorrow as they host holders Morpeth Town in the FA Vase.
A last-16 place is at stake in a rematch of last term’s thrilling third round tie, which the Highwaymen won 10-9 on penalties after a 3-3 draw.
Morpeth will certainly be coming here with a lot of motivation, and we’ve got to more than match thatLee Picton
Shields and Morpeth now sit second and fourth respectively in Northern League Division One, with the Mariners enjoying a nine-point advantage, but their rivals having three games in hand.
The table suggests that, despite a 4-0 victory for Shields at Morpeth earlier this season, the teams are closely-matched.
Mariners joint manager Lee Picton, too, insists nothing can be read into the result in October heading into tomorrow’s match.
He said: “We’ve got to draw a line under that game. I don’t think we can take much from that scoreline.
“Morpeth will certainly be coming here with a lot of motivation, and we’ve got to more than match that.
“Hopefully the quality and the support that we’ll have on the day will be some of the defining factors to help us finish on the right side of the line. It’s a huge game for everybody concerned and we’re looking forward to getting another big crowd behind us at Mariners Park.”
Shields have won their last 10 games in all competitions, and 18 of their last 19.
Captain Leepaul Scroggins made his first appearance in more than two months on Monday in the 2-1 Durham Challenge Cup victory over Jarrow Roofing.
A knee injury kept him out for much of that time, before illness ruled him out of the Christmas period.
He said: “Saturday is a massive game.
“We played Morpeth in the league and dominated that match to get the result we wanted. This is a totally different game, and everyone steps up their level in the Vase, so we’re expecting a really difficult one.
“It will be a big occasion for South Shields and I’m sure there will be plenty of fans coming to the game.
“It will be tough, but it’s one we know we can come through and win if we play to our potential.
“The Vase is excellent and everyone would like a long run in the competition and a Wembley trip at the end of it. It would be great if we could do it.
“Morpeth beat us last season on penalties on their way to winning it, so it would be good to get one over on them.
“We’ll be raring to go on Saturday.”
The Mariners have an almost fully-available squad to pick from, although Louis Storey is still about a fortnight away from returning to full training as he recovers from a broken leg.
Left-back Anthony Callaghan, meanwhile, is cup-tied, having represented Washington in an earlier round of the competition.
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. As this is a cup game, season tickets, corporate and junior season passes are not valid.