South Shields ready for final home game of a glorious 2017

Barrie Smith has been praised for his performance against Sunderland RCA. Picture by Peter Talbot.
Barrie Smith has been praised for his performance against Sunderland RCA. Picture by Peter Talbot.

South Shields play their final home game of a glorious year tomorrow when they welcome Trafford to Mariners Park.

The Mariners have won 25 of their 28 home fixtures in all competitions in 2017, with just one defeat – to Hartlepool United in the FA Cup.

It’s a calendar year which has seen them pick up four trophies and establish a six-point lead at the top of the Evo-Stik North Division.

Joint manager Lee Picton is still looking for more from his side heading into tomorrow’s game, though.

He was left unhappy with certain aspects of Tuesday’s 3-2 win over Sunderland RCA in the Durham Challenge Cup, and says improvements must be made if seventh-placed Trafford are to be overcome.

Picton said: “It was a really tough encounter at their place on the opening day, and there was a bit of niggle in the game.

“It’s going to be a difficult one again for us.

“If we perform to the levels we did on Tuesday, we’re going to walk away from the game with nothing to show for it.

“We’re going to have to find that motivation that forever reason didn’t seem to be there with some players on Tuesday ahead of tomorrow’s game, because it’s going to be a really tough one.”

Shields had to come from behind to win 2-1 at Trafford’s Shawe View on the opening day of the season.

After a difficult start, Trafford have picked up recently.

Picton added: “They had a really poor start to the season, for the quality of players that they’ve got in their squad.

“They’ve picked up over their last 10 games or so, although they conceded six against Hyde in their most recent game.

“As tough a match as it’s going to be, if we can get our levels right and get ourselves prepared properly, we can score goals against anyone at this level.

“That’s hopefully what we’re going to do.”

Ahead of tomorrow’s game, one Shields player who has come in for praise is long-serving midfielder Barrie Smith.

Picton said: “There were some good performances on Tuesday, and I thought Barrie Smith was the pick of the bunch.

“With his performance on Tuesday, it makes it almost impossible for us to leave him out tomorrow, and that’s the kind of performance that we want from players.

“There was maybe a handful of other players who went the other way and put real doubts in our mind ahead of selection for tomorrow’s game.

“Right now, whenever Barrie is on the pitch, it looks like he’s playing as if it’s the last time he’ll ever play football.

“That’s a great mentality to have, and you can just sense all the time how much it means to him to be at this football club.

“That’s really hard to ignore.”

Shields have doubts over midfielder Julio Arca and defender Jon Shaw, but are hoping to welcome back striker Gavin Cogdon for the 3pm kick-off at Mariners Park.

It also remains to be seen whether midweek hat-trick hero Andrew Stephenson will be available after he was brought off during the second half of Tuesday’s game with a slight hamstring injury.

Admission prices – to be paid at the turnstiles – are £8 for adults, £6 for students and over-65s, and £2 for under-16s.