Raiders hit South Shields FC in run-up to huge match
Louts have targeted South Shields Football Club - as The Mariners prepare for their biggest game in decades.
More than 3,000 fans are set to pack into Mariners Park for the second leg of the FA Vase semi-final against Coleshill Town on Saturday.
But just days before the fixture - which could see Shields reach Wembley for the first time - parts of the club’s newly-repaired fence have been stolen.
The fence had been damaged earlier this month after being struck by a wagon, and the repair was completed on Monday.
However, club vice-chairman Gary Crutwell discovered the following day that seven panels from the fence had been stolen, and when he returned an hour later, eight more were gone.
Mr Crutwell said: “It’s so disappointing that someone would do something like this, especially on a week as important as this for the club. Whoever did this are lowlifes.
“This is a community club on the verge of the biggest game in many supporters’ lifetimes, and some people have decided to target our brand new fence.
“We’ve contacted the police and are going to look at CCTV with our neighbouring businesses to identify those responsible.
“I also hope someone in the area might have seen it happen, because it was in broad daylight.”
Shields are 2-1 up from the first leg of the semi-final.
Additional tickets went on sale to supporters yesterday after the initial batch sold out almost a week before the fixture.
The attendance on Saturday is expected to break the Mariners Park record of 3,161.
Mr Crutwell - who manages the site - had ensured the ground was looking shipshape ahead of the club’s biggest game in a generation.
He added: “The repair was completed on Monday lunchtime, so the ground was looking as good as it could ahead of Saturday’s game.
“A supporter then reported to me that there was a hole in the fence again, and when I looked, about seven fence panels had been stripped off.
“I looked again an hour or two later and another eight panels were gone.
“The materials themselves are worth about £60 overall, but it’s not really about that.
“It’s the fact we had just had it repaired, and the inconvenience this kind of thing causes.
“We’re now going to have to get a builder out to replace them again, so there will be labour costs as well as the material costs.”