SOUTH Shields are set for their “biggest game of the season” tonight when they travel to Birtley Town in the quarter-finals of the Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup.
Shields have struggled for form in the league recently, and their 3-2 loss to Willington on Saturday was their third defeat in a row.
They are 16th in Northern League Division Two, but the cup has given them an opportunity to make something out of the season, according to assistant manager Lee Bell.
Shields lost 3-1 at Birtley in a league fixture in November, but Bell says their motivation will be high tonight as the Mariners look to progress to the last four.
He said: “It’s a big day for the club, and I don’t think we’re going to get a bigger day this season, certainly not in the league.
“We’ve not got a chance of winning the league in any shape or form and we’re out of every other cup competition, so this cup is the one thing we can really stamp our authority on.
“We want to make something of this season and actually go on and have a great day for the club, winning a bit of silverware.
“It would be nice to think that the lads will turn up prepared and perform like they did in the first half on Saturday.
“If we do that, we’ll give Birtley a better game than we did when we played them there earlier in the season, when they turned us over.”
Bell says the Mariners need to develop a “90 minute mentality” after they were unable to follow up a positive first half performance on Saturday, letting a 1-0 lead slip in a 3-2 defeat.
He added: “We’ve got a very good group of lads and there is a great atmosphere in the changing room, but for some reason, we don’t seem to be able to carry that 90 minute mentality.
“We’ve got a lot of young players and a bit of immaturity as far as football is concerned sometimes, and that shows in games like Saturday.
“We need to improve that aspect of our game.”
Kick-off at Birtley Sports Complex is at 7.30pm.