South Shields have been warned they face a tough battle as they bid to claim a place in the final of the Durham Challenge Cup on Tuesday.
The Mariners are away to Northern League leaders Dunston UTS in the semi-final of the competition, which they last won in 2017.
Chris Swailes’ Dunston have enjoyed a tremendous season and are heavy favourites to win promotion from the Northern League, where they hold a seven-point lead at the top with a game in hand.
Shields may operate in a league two levels above Dunston, but joint manager Graham Fenton knows just how difficult a night his team is in for.
He said: “It’s a semi-final and we want to win.
“I know Swaz (Chris Swailes) will want to win the game as well and it will be a tough one.
“We went to watch their game against Gateshead in the quarter-final, and they’re top of the Northern League for a reason.
“By no means are we going to turn up thinking it’s a foregone conclusion.
“It will be a tough game.
“We have to pick a team that’s fresh, first and foremost, so we have real energy throughout the team and a team that can hurt them as well as defend our own goal, because it will be a really tough battle.”
Shields returned to winning ways in the league on Saturday with a 2-0 success at Bamber Bridge.
They are expected to make some changes for Tuesday’s game, but Fenton will be looking for a similar sort of performance.
He added: “It was a brilliant away performance.
“We asked the lads for a balanced performance in terms of knowing when to throw a few bodies forward and when to defend, and we generally got it right.
“It was a really pleasing away performance, especially considering Bamber are good at home.
“We were disappointed to drop two points against them a fortnight earlier when we let a 3-1 lead slip.
“We were 2-0 up at half-time on Saturday and said that we were in the same situation and couldn’t let that happen again.
“To a man including the subs, everyone was brilliant in terms of sticking at it and making sure they didn’t get any clear-cut chances.
“It was a really pleasing day.”
Shields could welcome back left-back Anthony Callaghan, who has missed 14 months of football with a back injury.
They are expected to still be without Gary Brown, while Barrie Smith and Carl Finnigan continue to miss out with their long-term knocks.
Kick-off at the UTS Stadium – which has a post code of NE11 9JL – is at 7.30pm.