Here's what needs to happen for South Shields to seal remarkable fourth consecutive promotion in final day showdown

South Shields could seal a remarkable fourth consecutive championship in today's final day showdown - but need a three-point swing in their favour.

By Dan Prince and Shaun Wales
Saturday, 27 April, 2019, 10:53
South Shields could win a fourth-straight promotion today, picture by Kev Wilson.

The Mariners must win at play-off chasers Gainsborough Trinity and hope that leaders Farsley Celtic are beaten at home by relegation-threatened Marine to clinch the title.

Anything else would result in a play-off place, so Shields undoubtedly go into proceedings as underdogs.

With up to 500 supporters expected to join them on the trip to Lincolnshire, though, the Mariners make the journey in bullish mood.

They have secured points with goals in second half stoppage time in each of their last three games, most recently on Monday, when Luke Daly's 95th-minute goal sealed a 3-2 win over Scarborough Athletic.

Buoyed by that victory, joint manager Lee Picton believes anything is possible.

He said: "The game against Scarborough was just about the most exciting one we've had at Mariners Park since Graham (Fenton) and I took charge.

"We got there by hook or by crook and it means that there's something for us to play for in the last game of the season.

"If things like what happened on Monday can happen, then anything can happen this weekend.

"Much stranger things have happened in football than three-point swings on the last day of the season.

"We just have to concentrate on our game."

The fighting qualities shown by the Mariners over recent weeks, with the title on the line, has particularly pleased Picton.

He added: "We've talked a lot about personality and character.

"We talk about it all the time in terms of the culture we want to continue to build at this club.

"The lads have done exceptionally well.

"When you think of some of the really tough phases of the season we've been through, to go into the last game with winning the title still a possibility is testament to how much the lads have stuck together, worked really hard and shown a lot of grit and determination, as well as the more glamorous, attractive football side of things.

"We're chomping at the bit now to give a really good account of ourselves."

Gainsborough have plenty to play for themselves tomorrow.

They go into the game sitting a place outside the play-off spots on goal difference, and are unbeaten in their last four games.

Picton said: "It's a massive challenge, because Gainsborough are still fighting and scrapping with Buxton for the last play-off spot.

"There will be absolutely no danger of them having their flip-flops on.

"They will come out at home and try to be on the front foot, I expect, giving it everything they've got to win the game.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

"We couldn't have really asked for a tougher test heading into the last game of the season, but it's a challenge we relish.

"If we can show some of the levels we showed in the first half on Monday, we've got a great chance of getting three points."

Shields go into the game with no new injury concerns, with Carl Finnigan having made his return from a long-term ankle injury as a substitute on Monday.

Kick-off at The Martin & Co Arena - which has a post code of DN21 2QW - is at 3pm.

Meanwhile, Shields' academy side reached their second national final of the season this week.

The young Mariners won 2-1 in Gloucester against the much-fancied Hartpury College in the semi-final of the ECFA National Play-Offs, with Sam Hodgson netting the winner late on after Dom Minchella's opener was cancelled out.

They will take on Bristol Academy of Sport in the final at Port Vale FC's Vale Park on Thursday, May 9, a day after facing Basford United in the final of the National League Under-19 Alliance at Walsall FC's Banks's Stadium.

The permutations, by Shaun Wales

With South Shields fighting for automatic promotion heading into the last round of fixtures, the picture was always inevitably set to be complicated by a host of ‘what if’ scenarios.

After earning a huge three points in the 3-2 victory over Scarborough Athletic on Monday, Shields remain in hope of gaining automatic promotion.

Shields travel to Gainsborough Trinity on Saturday knowing that they must beat the Holy Blues to have any chance of winning the league and with it, the one automatic promotion spot.

They will then need 18th-placed Marine to win at Farsley Celtic, as a win or a draw would be enough for Celtic to secure the title.

Celtic are currently three points ahead of the Mariners on 87 points but with Shields’ superior goal difference, a defeat would give the South Tyneside club a big chance to win a fourth successive title.

The first round of play-off matches will take place on Tuesday, April 30 and if Shields are involved, they will take on Nantwich Town, Buxton or Gainsborough Trinity at Mariners Park.

Shields’ opponents would depend on their final league position. Should they finish second, they will face the side which ends the season fifth, and if they are third, they will take on the fourth-placed side.

If Shields are in the play-offs and win that opening game, they will face the winner of the other league play-off tie on Saturday, May 4 at the home of whichever team finished the season higher in the table.

The winners of that match would take on the winners of the Evo-Stik South Premier Division Central play-offs, which will involve Stourbridge, King’s Lynn Town, Alvechurch and Stratford Town.

The so-called super play-off final will take place on Saturday, May 11.

The venue will be the home of the club which ended the season with the best points per game ratio. Should South Shields, Farsley Celtic or Warrington Town compete in that match, they are already guaranteed home advantage.

So much hinges on this weekend, with Farsley and Shields going head-to-head for the title.

Then, the super play-offs will commence.