Friendship will go ‘out of the window’ tomorrow when South Shields line up for their biggest game of the season so far.
The Mariners host Northern League Division One leaders Morpeth Town at Mariners Park in the third round of the FA Vase.
A victory would be Shields’ 20th in a row in all competitions, and the tie has generated much excitement, with the leaders of the two Northern League tiers going head to head.
It will also be a huge game personally for Shields manager Jon King, who managed Morpeth before moving to the Mariners in 2010.
He is confident his current side has what it takes to add Morpeth to a list of Division One scalps they have already taken this season, which includes Consett, Bishop Auckland and Washington.
King said: “This is the biggest game of the season for us so far, by a mile.
This is the biggest game of the season for us so far, by a mileJon King
“Morpeth are a good side, and I was there for years.
“I know the chairman Ken Beattie really well, and I know that they fancy themselves to do well in every competition this season.
“They’ve got some really good players, but we’ve watched them and know a lot about them. They have watched us as well, so it’ll be the same from their perspective. If we can perform really well, as we have done so far in the Vase, we know we’ve got a good chance.
“We’ve had some really tough draws in the Vase so far, and the lads have come out with good results every time.
“This will be a really tough one – the hardest we’ve had – but hopefully we can play as well as we can and win the tie.”
King’s Morpeth won the Northumberland Senior Cup in 2007, winning the final against Blyth Spartans at Newcastle United’s St James’s Park.
“I was at Morpeth for a long time, and I’ve got happy memories from my time there,” King added. “I’ll never forget us beating Blyth Spartans to win the cup at St James’s Park.
“We had a really good side, and Ken Beattie was a fantastic chairman with me. I’m still good friends with him.
“They’ve got a really good side together, and I’m over the moon that they’re doing well.
“I’d like to see them win the Northern League, but of course I’m desperate to see them knocked out of the FA Vase tomorrow.
“I’ve got a lot of friends there and a lot of time for people there, but that goes out of the window now. My full focus is on helping us get through to the next round.”
There are hopes that another bumper crowd will be in attendance at Mariners Park tomorrow, with Shields already having had three home crowds of over 1,000 this season.
King said: “The fans have been absolutely outstanding for us so far this season, and we’re going to need them again tomorrow.
“I’d expect Morpeth to bring quite a few with them as well, so there will be a good atmosphere.
“We know what kind of affect our crowd can have on opposition teams, and fingers crossed they will be out in force again tomorrow for our biggest game of the season.”
Leading the way in the centre of the park for Shields will be captain Leepaul Scroggins, who has hit a rich vein of form over recent weeks.
He is also adamant that the Mariners have what it takes to topple the Division One leaders.
Scroggins said: “It’s a very exciting time, and we’ve been really looking forward to this one. On our day, we know we can beat anyone.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for Morpeth, because they’re flying in the First, but we are flying in the Second as well, and have no fear.
“We’ve beaten everyone in the First that we’ve come up against so far. It’s just another game,and if we turn up, we can beat anyone.”
Asked about his thoughts on the season so far, the midfielder added: “It’s always enjoyable playing for your hometown, and even more so the way the town is buzzing about the club.
“I’ll see what happens at the end of the season and see where I am.
“I keep on saying each season that I’m retiring, but we’ll see what happens. I’m enjoying it, and that’s the main thing.”
Shields will be without the injured Lewis Galpin for the 3pm kick-off, while Lewis Teasdale is a doubt.
However, the Mariners are hoping to welcome back Julio Arca, Daryll Hall, Adam Sakr and Jonny Wightman after all missed last week’s 3-1 league win at Billingham Town.
Admission prices are £5 for adults, £3 for students and over-65s, and £1 for under-16s. Season tickets and club passes are not valid for this fixture.