South Shields players will be ‘turned on’ by big FA Cup clash with Stockport County

Carl Finnigan is one of a number of big-game players for South Shields.
Carl Finnigan is one of a number of big-game players for South Shields.

South Shields’ big game players can be ‘turned on’ by another moment in the spotlight today.

That’s the view of joint manager Lee Picton as he prepares his players for their FA Cup clash against Stockport County at Mariners Park.

Shields go into the game as underdogs against the former Football League side, who play at a rung higher in the pyramid.

Picton, however, is confident that his players will rise to the occasion, as they did in last season’s FA Cup run which saw them dump out the likes of Darlington and York City, as well as take National League side Hartlepool United all the way.

“I think there are areas we can exploit if we can get it right,” he said.

“Don’t get me wrong, we will respect Stockport – they are a strong, physical team – but if we get our quality and pace right on the ball, then I think we can really hurt them.

“Last season showed us that if we get it right, we are good enough to compete. We have belief in our dressing room that we can go and hurt teams like this.

“I think we’ve got a lot of players in our dressing room who like the spotlight. With games like this in the FA Cup, you’ve always got the possibility of ‘what if’ with who you may get in the draw. And that prospect and the limelight will hopefully turn our players on.”

Equally for Shields, while they took great confidence from their marvellous run last season, there is also the knowledge that it could have been much better, and that will hopefully drive the players on, says fellow joint manager Graham Fenton.

The management duo, and players, were left frustrated and upset that they didn’t see off Hartlepool United in the fourth qualifying round last term, having led 1-0 at half-time and dominated the opening 45 minutes.

Two quickfire goals after the break rescued the game for Pools and ended Shields’ adventure, and Fenton wants the players to learn from the mistakes they made that day.

He said: “The disappointment of the Hartlepool game will drive us on. It was a game we shouldn’t have lost.

“Bar a mad 10 minutes which cost us, we were in control, but that shows us that if you play against opponents from leagues higher and have 10 minutes off, they will hurt you.

“We will have to concentrate like we did against Darlington and York. There’s nothing to fear.”