Julio Arca says South Shields’ players are determined to “make history” – as they stand so close to a first appearance at Wembley.
The Mariners battled to a 2-1 win at Coleshill Town on Saturday, meaning they just need to avoid defeat in the return leg at Mariners Park to complete the job.
We’re so close to making history for the clubJulio Arca
Arca admits the pressure is on the Mariners to reach Wembley – and believes that showed in the team’s performance on Saturday.
He said: “This is massive for everyone involved.
“We’re so close to making history for the club, and everyone knows that.
“You could tell on Saturday that we were under pressure a little bit. We showed some nerves at the beginning, but it’s normal.
“At this stage of a competition like this, you will feel the nerves.
“In the end we dealt with them well and got the right result.”
Shields were backed by what appeared to be well over 500 away fans in a crowd of more than 1,700 at Coleshill.
The attendance at Mariners Park on Saturday is expected to exceed 3,000, and Arca says the support they are receiving is adding to Shields’ motivation.
He added: “The fans were great yet again for us on Saturday.
“The support we got was fantastic. We were four or five hours away from home and they still came all the way to support the team.
“Next week, it’s going to be a fantastic day with the ground packed again, so we need to make sure we do the right things and perform in the right way.
“Hopefully we can give ourselves a bigger chance to get into the final.”
Coleshill caused Shields some real problems on Saturday, and held the lead at half-time.
Arca insists the Mariners were not confronted by anything they did not expect from the Midland League Premier Division side, after much homework from joint managers Graham Fenton and Lee Picton.
The former Sunderland and Middlesbrough midfielder added: “From the work the coaches did, we expected them to play the way they did.
“They had the No9 up front holding up the ball and runners trying to get the second balls. We might not have seen them in person before, but we would never use that as an excuse because we’re always given all the information we need.”
Arca was instrumental for the Mariners at Pack Meadow, particularly in the closing stages.
His work-rate and desire drew special praise from joint manager Lee Picton after the game as he again showed the will-to-win which has endeared him to the Shields faithful just as much as the silky footwork.
Overall, though, Shields were below-par, feels Arca, who is hoping they can produce their A game to force their way into the Wembley final on Saturday.
He said: “I don’t think we played as well as we’ve been playing, but we did enough to win the game.
“In the first 45 minutes, we were slow on the ball and slow in possession. They took advantage of that.
“In the second half, we livened it up a bit. We equalised at a good time and scored the winner at a great time, but overall we know we can do a lot better than that.”
At this stage of the competition, of course, results are far more important than performances.
And had you offered anyone in the Shields camp a 2-1 win ahead of the first leg, they’d have surely snatched your hand off.
Arca added: “It’s always nice to win playing the way we normally do, but in a competition like this, it doesn’t matter how you win. You need to get through.
“We showed character in the second half and showed the physical side.
“It was a good win and hopefully we can finish it off on Saturday.”