Graham Fenton has this message to South Shields squad ahead of Gateshead clash
Graham Fenton has challenged his South Shields players to end pre-season on a high as they prepare to welcome Gateshead to 1st Cloud Arena.
The Mariners complete their preparations for the Northern Premier League opener against Mickleover by taking on the National League North outfit at 1st Cloud Arena tomorrow (Saturday).
Both sides look in impressive shape heading into 2021-22, with Shields having won four of their five first-team pre-season matches, while Gateshead have been victorious in all six of theirs.
Fenton – who is set for his first full season in sole charge of the Mariners – is pleased with how his team is shaping up, despite last Saturday’s 3-2 reverse at home to Marske United.
He feels Mike Williamson’s Tynesiders are the ideal final opponents for Shields ahead of the new campaign.
The manager said: “Gateshead will definitely open the game up and try to play, so it should be an entertaining one for the fans who come along and watch.
“The Marske game was probably a good dress rehearsal as they play in a similar way to Gateshead.
“It will be really interesting to see how we get on and whether we can build on some of the tactical elements we showed in the second half against Marske.
“We want to finish pre-season with a win but we know it’s not going to be easy.”
Gateshead’s most recent outing was a superb 4-1 win over Newcastle United’s Under-23s, and they count former Shields defenders Louis Storey and Alex Nicholson among their ranks.
As with any pre-season fixture, tomorrow will be less about the result and more about fitness levels and patterns of play, but Fenton has stressed the importance of a strong performance as he finalises his plans for next Saturday’s league opener against Mickleover.
He added: “We’re looking for players to command their place in the starting line-up for the game against Mickleover next week.
“There have been some really pleasing aspects of play recently, interspersed with some poor bits of play, but you’re always going to get that at this stage, particularly after such a long lay-off.
“I think that most teams will be the same in the early part of the season, with rustiness and mistakes an inevitability when the majority of us haven’t played a competitive game in the calendar year.
“We just have to make sure we’re in the best shape possible and that’s why pre-season games like this one are so important.”
Tomorrow’s game will kick-off at 3pm and the two sets of supporters will be segregated.
Gateshead fans – who must purchase tickets in advance – will be able to enter the ground through turnstiles 3 and 4, with turnstiles 1, 2, 5 and 6 designated for home supporters, who will be able to pay at the gate.
Tickets are priced at £6 for adults, £4 for students and over-65s, and £2 for under-16s, and can be bought in advance from www.southshieldsfc.co.uk.
The turnstiles will open at 12.30pm and entertainment will be available for Shields fans after the match in the Barbour Lounge, with singer Michael Stevens set to perform.