Jon King has urged South Shields to put their cup frustration behind them in tomorrow’s big clash with Chester-le-Street at Mariners Park.
Shields, who are six points clear at the top of Northern League Division Two, will come up against a Cestrians side sitting fourth.
The league is the number one aim for us. Teams around us in the table aren’t letting up, so we need to keep going and keep winningJon King
The Mariners go into the game on the back of a “massively disappointing” Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup quarter-final loss at Billingham Synthonia on Wednesday.
They were defeated 2-1 despite dominating the play, as they hit the woodwork three times and also had a number of efforts brilliantly saved or blocked on the goal-line.
As frustrated as King was by that loss, though, he insists tomorrow’s game carries greater importance as they look to further strengthen their promotion bid.
He said: “It was massively disappointing to lose on Wednesday, as it was a competition we were confident we could win.
“We had enough chances to win a few games, but our finishing wasn’t good enough and we lacked concentration at crucial times at the back.
“We’re still in three competitions, but the league has always been paramount for us. That’s the number one aim. Teams around us in the table aren’t letting up, so we need to keep going and keep winning.”
Shields were also beaten 1-0 at Billingham Synthonia in late January – on another day they dominated the ball.
On that occasion, Sam Garvie struck a minute before the end to hand the hosts all three points in the league fixture.
And he was on target twice from the penalty spot on Wednesday in a game in which Synthonia deployed a similar gameplan.
King added: “We knew what they were going to do, but we managed to break them down quite a bit.
“A lack of quality in front of goal and some unbelievable goalkeeping from one of my ex-players, Barry Poskett, ultimately cost us.
“Their goal led a charmed life, and, for the second time this season, we felt like we had our pockets picked there.
“It was probably one of the most one-sided games you’ll ever see, but the bottom line is that we lost and didn’t make the most of our chances.”
Second-placed Ryhope CW have a game in hand on Shields, while Chester-le-Street, in fourth, are 12 points off the top.
They also boast the league’s top scorer, with Scott Heslop having struck 25 times so far.
The Mariners have already beaten them in three different competitions this season, but King has warned they will not be in for an easy ride tomorrow.
He said: “Chester-le-Street are a direct team who get the ball forward very quickly. That will keep our defenders in the game, which they weren’t on Wednesday for long periods.
“They will have to defend a lot of long balls.
“It will be tough, because Chester-le-Street have the league’s top goalscorer in their ranks and are up near the top of the table for a reason. They are direct and work really hard for each other.”
Kick-off at Mariners Park is at 3pm, with admission – to be paid at the turnstiles – costing £5 for adults, £3 for students and over-65s, and £1 for under-16s. The bar will also be open beforehand showing Sunderland’s lunchtime match at West Ham, and pints during that game will be reduced to £2 for Foster’s, John Smith’s and Strongbow, and £2.50 for Birra Moretti.