Table-topping Mariners can still improve, says joint boss Lee Picton

Gavin Cogdon could return for Shields in tomorrow's game. Image by Peter Talbot.
Gavin Cogdon could return for Shields in tomorrow's game. Image by Peter Talbot.

Lee Picton has called on his South Shields team to tighten up at the back as they look to extend their lead at the top of the table tomorrow.

The Mariners are four points clear at the summit of Evo-Stik North, with five games in hand on second-placed Prescot Cables.

Tadcaster Albion are the visitors to Mariners Park tomorrow for a game joint manager Picton expects to be tough.

Despite their strong form, Shields have kept just one clean sheet in their last eight matches in all competitions.

That is one aspect Picton is looking for improvement in heading into tomorrow’s game.

He said: “For us, our recent clean sheet record is just not good enough, and we’re going to have to really up our game on that side of things now.

“It would just be really nice to win a game 1-0 or 2-0, because we haven’t done that for a while.

“At the back end of last season, we had clean sheet after clean sheet.

“We weren’t at our free-flowing best, but we were keeping the back door shut at the other end.

“We’ve got to try to find that side of our game again pretty soon.”

Tomorrow’s game could see striker Graeme Armstrong make his home debut for Shields.

The former Darlington man signed from Spennymoor Town last Friday, and made his debut in the 3-2 win at Ramsbottom United a day later.

After overcoming a tricky surface in that match, Picton is looking forward to getting back on home soil tomorrow.

He added: “The pitch at our place compared to some of the ones we’ve played on is chalk and cheese.

“We’ll again have to change the way we set up to suit that.

“We’re really looking forward to playing at home in front of a good crowd, and hopefully play some entertaining football.”

Picton, though, was pleased with the way the Mariners adapted at Ramsbottom last week – and has warned his players to get used to such surfaces.

He said: “We’ve been saying for a couple of weeks now that we’re going to get lots of pitches like that from now until the end of the season.

“Our goal is to do what we need to do, and have the adaptability and flexibility to deal with whatever is thrown at us, and finish with hopefully enough points to take us to the next level up.”

Shields have been nursing a number of injuries over recent weeks.

Seven first-team players missed the trip to Ramsbottom, and there are doubts over a number of them heading into tomorrow.

Michael Richardson, Alex Nicholson and Gavin Cogdon are expected to return, but Julio Arca, Darren Lough and Anthony Callaghan remain doubtful.

Kick-off at Mariners Park is at 3pm, with admission – to be paid at the turnstiles – costing £8 for adults, £6 for students and over-65s, and £2 for under-16s.