South Shields aim to kick-start campaign with victory after pre-season 'benchmark'
Nathan Lowe is confident hard work on the training field will reap rewards as South Shields prepare for their league opener on Saturday.
The Mariners are away to newly-promoted Radcliffe in the Northern Premier League Premier Division as they begin their bid to improve on last season's second place finish.
Shields had a mixed pre-season but ended it with three consecutive wins, including an impressive 5-0 victory at Ossett United on Saturday.
Midfielder Lowe feels that game should be the "benchmark" for the Mariners, who have adopted a new training model this season.
Much of the squad is now training four times a week, with managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton able to spend significantly more time with the players.
Lowe - who scored twice in the win at Ossett - is hopeful that will make all the difference.
He said: "A lot of hours have gone in over pre-season, and not just from the players.
"The managers have also been putting in endless hours to get it right.
"The whole performance last Saturday showed what we're really about.
"We were at it and hungry, and that's what Lee and Graham are trying to drill into us.
"We had a few shaky results earlier in pre-season but it's time to really get our heads down.
"Last week gives us a massive benchmark and stepping stone to kick on from."
Shields dealt with some difficult conditions at Ossett, something they are sure to become accustomed to during the season.
Lowe felt it was the ideal game to prepare them for the campaign ahead.
He added: "It was a tough afternoon and the conditions tested us a lot.
"The first half was really difficult and it was tough to get out, but that teed our second half performance up.
"We were solid, hard to beat and nasty when we needed to be.
"We got the ball down and played in the second half, and we were able to cut them open.
"It was the perfect away performance."
Lowe is confident Shields now have the tools needed to hit the ground running on Saturday.
He said: "We had a few shaky results in pre-season but we finished on a really high note and we're all confident going into Saturday's game.
"It's really important that we start well to build momentum.
"We're really looking forward to it."
Shields are expected to welcome captain Jon Shaw back into contention tomorrow, although the game may come too early for Craig Baxter, who is recovering from a hernia operation.
Lowe is expected to be fit after being withdrawn late on against Ossett as a precaution after some knee discomfort.