South Shields will have the eyes of North East non-league football on them tomorrow as they bid for a place in the semi-finals of the FA Vase.
In arguably the club’s biggest game for several decades, the Mariners will be backed by an expected crowd of between 2,500 and 3,000 at Mariners Park as they take on Newport Pagnell Town.
A victory would take Shields further than they have ever gone in the competition, and one step closer to the dream of a Wembley final.
Joint manager Lee Picton wants his side to learn from two of their lowest points this season in tomorrow’s game.
In front of bumper Mariners Park crowds, Shields were beaten 1-0 by North Shields in November, and were 4-2 down against Morpeth Town in a third round FA Vase tie in January, before the floodlights failed. The Mariners went on to beat the holders 4-0 in the replay at Morpeth.
Picton said: “We’re going to have to deal with the occasion tomorrow.
We’re going to have to deal with the occasion tomorrowLee Picton
“To be honest, there have been a couple of similar occasions already this season where we’ve perhaps not done ourselves justice or been near the top of our game.
“Hopefully those experiences in front of a packed Mariners Park will give us the confidence to put a better show on.
“Fingers crossed we can do that, because if we do, we’ve already proved that we’re more than a match for any side at this level.
“It’s about focusing on us, getting our levels right and being as good as we can be tomorrow.”
Shields are in excellent form, having won their last 18 games in all competitions.
Most recently, they defeated Chester-le-Street Town 3-0 last Saturday.
However, Picton feels the team can reach even greater heights tomorrow.
He added: “There are always improvements to be made. I thought we could have been a bit more ruthless in the final third last Saturday, but we gave them next to no chances at the other end, which is always pleasing, and kept another clean sheet.
“Overall, three points were what we were looking for and that’s what we got, so it was a good day.”
Newport are 11th in the United Counties League Premier Division, and beat the runaway leaders of their league, Peterborough Sports, in an earlier round.
However, Shields defender Darren Lough is confident that if the Mariners play to their potential, they will get the right result.
He said: “I’m looking forward to it a lot. We’ve had a big week of preparation and two training sessions to get us ready. Hopefully we’ll be able to put on a big performance in front of a big crowd.
“The atmosphere is going to be incredible and I just hope we can put in a performance to go into the next round.
“It’s a cup game and anything can happen on the day.
“They’re coming up here and know what we’re going to be like. It will come down to us and how we perform. If we play well, I’m confident we’ll win the game.”
Shields will be without injured duo Barrie Smith and Leepaul Scroggins, while Anthony Callaghan is cup-tied.
Kick-off at Mariners Park is at 3pm and tickets for the all-ticket fixture are still available by calling 0191 454 7800 or visiting the ground.