Forget Wembley bid and cup heroics '“ league is focus for South Shields ahead of Sunderland trip
Lee Picton insists thoughts of cup success have been put on the back-burner for South Shields '“ as they aim to take another step towards promotion tomorrow.
The Mariners travel to Sunderland RCA in Northern League Division One.
They go into the 3pm kick-off sitting second in the table, and a top-three finish would be enough to see them go up.
At the same time, table-topping North Shields – who are eight points clear of the Mariners having played two games more – will be taking on third-placed Morpeth – who are 10 points behind South Shields with two games in hand – in a crunch clash.
Fourth-placed Shildon, meanwhile, have played the same number of matches as the Mariners, and are 11 points behind with 10 games to play.
Shields also have the Durham Challenge Cup, FA Vase and League Cup to think about in the closing weeks of the season.
They reached the Challenge Cup final on Tuesday with victory at Consett, and are into the last four of the other two competitions, with the semi-finals to be played over the next three weeks.
However, joint manager Picton insists they will be far from Shields’ minds tomorrow as they aim for a 23rd win in a row.
He said: “Our full focus is back on the league now.
“This is our last game before our two-legged FA Vase semi-final, and League Cup semi-final, so we need three points to keep us in as strong a position as possible.
“We’re expecting another really tough game against Sunderland RCA.
“No matter who we play against, everyone wants to be the team that ends the run that we’re on.
“Also, the conditions will probably be testing again and we’ll have to adapt again.
“We’ll have to shuffle the pack again and come up with a gameplan that we’ll hopefully be able to execute to bring another three points home.”
Full-back Alex Nicholson has echoed those thoughts, and insists attentions turned to Sunderland RCA as soon as the final whistle blew on Shields’ 3-1 Durham Challenge Cup semi-final win at Consett in midweek.
He said: “No one was thinking about the Durham Challenge Cup final after the game on Tuesday.
“We said in the changing room that our minds are straight on to Saturday now.
“It’ll be a completely different game, pitch-wise especially.
“We’ve all got the right mentality to switch on to that straightaway.
“As soon as the full-time whistle was blown, our attentions switched to Sunderland RCA.
“We’ll be looking to get another win under our belt.”
Having made a number of changes in midweek, the Mariners may be forced into another ‘shuffle of the pack’ tomorrow, according to Picton.
Carl Finnigan, Gavin Cogdon and Darren Holden were all forced off during the victory at Consett with injuries.
He said: “We shuffled the pack again on Tuesday in terms of our starting line-up, and we’re going to have to do the same thing tomorrow.
“It’s great that we’ve got the likes of Darren Lough, Jon Shaw, Wayne Phillips, Craig Baxter, Julio Arca and David Foley, who didn’t start the Consett game and will be fresh enough to call upon tomorrow.
“Hopefully, Barrie Smith and Stephen Ramsey aren’t too far away from returning as well.
“We have got that depth to draw upon, and we’re focused on another three points tomorrow.”
Kick-off at Meadow Park 3pm, post code is SR2 0NZ, with admission prices costing £5 for adults and £3 for concessions.