Graham Fenton feels South Shields will be coming up against one of their main promotion rivals when they kick-off their campaign at Trafford on Saturday.
The Mariners, having won the Northern League Division One title last season, are ready for life in the Northern Premier League Division One North.
I definitely expect them to finish in the top six this season, so it will be a good gage of where we’re atGraham Fenton
Fenton and fellow joint manager Lee Picton have been to Greater Manchester during pre-season to watch Saturday’s opponents in action, and were impressed with what they saw.
Fenton said: “We went to watch Trafford last week, and they looked good towards the end of the game, when they brought a few more of their experienced players on.
“I definitely expect them to finish in the top six this season, so it will be a good gage of where we’re at, at this early stage of the season.
“It will be a tough game, but the good thing is that it’s a nice pitch at Trafford.
“It’s a bit of a trek, which we’ve got to get used to, but we’re going down to a nice pitch and we should be able to play our brand of football on it.”
The Mariners enjoyed an impressive pre-season, beating FC United of Manchester and Whitby Town, and drawing with Blyth Spartans and Gateshead.
Fenton says they are eager to get going again, having not played a competitive match since winning the FA Vase final at Wembley in May.
He added: “We’ve had a shorter off-season than normal, with the Wembley game, but the start of the season seems to have taken an age to come around.
“There’s a lot of excitement in the camp ahead of Saturday, and after what has been a positive pre-season for us.
“We had a really good performance against Sunderland last week, and another good performance on Saturday at Whitby, and we’re going into the season with players to come back as well.
“We’re really looking forward to it.”
Shields are set to be without Julio Arca and Gavin Cogdon on Saturday, with both players currently away on holiday.
Kick-off at Shawe View – which has a post code of M41 5DL – is at 7.30pm.
Remaining coach places are available by calling 0191 455 2292.