New boy Ibby Hassan has stressed it is ‘essential’ South Shields follow up their midweek cup success by returning to winning ways in the league tomorrow.
Hassan made his home debut for the club on Wednesday, and impressed at the back as the Mariners beat Gateshead 3-2 in the Durham Challenge Cup quarter-final.
It’s essential that we kick on tomorrow and get another resultIbby Hassan
In Northern League Division Two, though, leaders Shields have lost their last two games, and have seen the gap at the top reduced to six points.
They take on Whickham at Mariners Park tomorrow, and Hassan is hopeful they will pick up where they left off against Gateshead.
The 27-year-old said: “It’s imperative that we win tomorrow. The league is the bread and butter for us.
“The cups are good distractions from the league, but our main goal is to win the league.
“We want to progress through the leagues, so it’s essential that we kick on tomorrow and get another result.”
Hassan had been made to wait for his home debut, with Shields having not played a game at Mariners Park since December 19.
However, the former Whitby Town defender was left thrilled after his first taste of action at the ground.
He added: “It was superb, and a great atmosphere. Gateshead were a great side.
“They’re full-time professional footballers, and we were competing against fit lads.
“They all have an innate knowledge of what each other are doing because they’re training with each other every day.
“They are the challenges you want to be facing.
“You play football to compete at as high a level as possible. I love nights like that
“ It was superb.”
Shields manager Jon King, meanwhile, heaped praise on his players following Wednesday’s win against a Gateshead side including the likes of Jamie Chandler, Craig Baxter and Jimmy Phillips, as well as two-goal Mechack Kanda.
He said: “It was a great performance against a very, very good side.
“I thought they were the best team we’ve played against so far this season by a country mile.
“We always mention to the lads how good our fitness levels are, but Gateshead’s were in a different league, as they should be, because they’re training every day.
“It was a fantastic performance from our players.
“The character, togetherness and will-to-win they showed was fantastic.”
King, though, insists Shields will not have it all their own way tomorrow against a Whickham side sitting 13th in the table but boosted by their County Cup win over Sunderland RCA.
He added: “I’ve always classed Whickham as one of the best teams in the division.
“They had a really slow start to this season, but they’re now in mid-table and have improved.
“They’re strong, physical and direct, but I wouldn’t swap this group of players for anyone in this division.
“Hopefully we’ll put another performance in like Wednesday’s, and get back to winning ways in the league.”
Shields will hope to welcome Julio Arca back for the 3pm kick-off at Mariners Park, but Lewis Galpin remains injured.
Admission prices are £5 for adults, £3 for students and over-65s, and £1 for under-16s.
Meanwhile, the Mariners will host Newton Aycliffe in the semi-final of the Durham Challenge Cup, with the date not yet confirmed.