South Shields joint manager Lee Picton says he can’t wait for tomorrow’s huge Northern League clash with Morpeth Town – but has urged his side to do their talking on the pitch.
The Mariners head into the game knowing victory over their closest rivals will secure the league title.
Morpeth are now the only side who can stop Shields lifting the championship, with both teams having beaten North Shields in the last week to end their bid.
It means the game – which already had an extra edge after the floodlight controversy earlier this season – couldn’t be set up better.
There has been a bit of needle, and plenty social media comments, since the Mariners progressed in the FA Vase after seemingly heading out to Morpeth when losing 4-2 with eight minutes to go before the lights went out back in January, forcing a replay which Shields won 4-0.
But Picton says he wants his players to focus on just getting three points.
“We’re thoroughly looking forward to it,” he said. “There will be a lot made in the build-up to the game about what has gone on previously, but it’s a game of football.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge, and if we can produce the levels we did in the second half on Tuesday, I’m very confident that we can get over the line and put that league title to bed.”
Shields need a win for the title after beating Marske 4-0 in midweek to record a 32nd successive victory; Morpeth, meanwhile, are chasing them hard and have racked up ?? consecutive wins of their own.
“It’s going to be a great game,” added Picton. “I’m really looking forward to it. These are the games that you want to be part of.
“Morpeth have pushed us all the way and massive credit has to go to them, because they’ve been on a fantastic run themselves. We’re just looking forward to a really good game of football.
“We’ve done our homework as we always do and prepared the team as best we can, and hopefully that will count for something.”
Picton and fellow manager Graham Fenton will use the squad again tomorrow, having made seven changes in midweek from the side that beat North Shields last weekend.
Carl Finnigan and Alex Nicholson both earned praise for their performances against Marske – the former bagging a hat-trick – but could miss out to the returning Gavin Cogdon and February’s Player of the Month, Craig Baxter.
“Carl did fantastically well,” added Picton. “We’ve said consistently over the last few weeks that players need to stick their necks out when they get opportunities and get a shirt.
“Carl really did that on Tuesday, as did a few others. Alex Nicholson had one of his best games in a South Shields shirt. I thought he was fantastic.
“It shows that we’re all in it together, everyone is pulling in the same direction and everybody is listening to us and taking on board what we’re saying. It’s really encouraging knowing that we can trust everyone across the squad.”
Julio Arca, Robert Briggs and Wayne Phillips are likely to return to the midfield, but Dillon Morse is injured.