South Shields captain Julio Arca can’t wait to play in an electric Mariners Park atmosphere today – as he looks set to win his battle for fitness.
The Mariners are taking on York City in the third qualifying round of the FA Cup.
Today is going to be one of those games when we’ll have the 100% support of the fans, and hopefully we’ll give them something back and win the gameJulio Arca
A crowd of about 3,000 is expected at Mariners Park, with all home tickets having sold out.
Arca looks set to be fit for the game after playing a full part in training on Thursday.
He had been out with a leg injury he picked up in the 3-0 win in the last round at Darlington a fortnight ago.
This afternoon, Shields go up against Darlington’s divisional rivals York, who were in the Football League just two years ago.
And Arca is convinced they have more than a fighting chance of taking the scalp of the Minstermen.
He said: “It’s one of the biggest games we’ve had since I arrived here.
“Last season, we had some big ones, especially in the FA Vase, but this one will be a huge test for us.
“We’re really looking forward to it and the fans are excited about it as well.
“It’s about doing things right and seeing how far we can go. We’ve got a good team and we showed that in the last few games, especially against Darlington, who are also two leagues higher than us.
“If we start the game right and do things right, we know we’ve got a chance.”
The winners of today’s tie will be just one round away from reaching the first round, when Football League clubs enter the draw.
That prospect is one which hugely excites Arca, who played in the semi-final of the FA Cup with Sunderland in 2004.
He added: “This is one of those games you definitely want to be involved in, because it will be one of our biggest this season.
“It’s exciting to play in the FA Cup, and if we win, we would go another step closer to playing against a Football League team.
“If that could happen at South Shields, it would be absolutely fantastic.”
Arca feels the fans could play a huge part today.
He said: “We’re expecting a full house. It happened quite a lot last season and the average of fans coming to see us is incredible. It’s getting bigger and bigger.
“Today is going to be one of those games when we’ll have the 100% support of the fans, and hopefully we’ll give them something back and win the game.”
Goalkeeper Liam Connell is also expected to be fit for today’s 3pm kick-off after playing a full part in training on Thursday.
There will be no cash turnstile in operation.