Birtley Town Preview

By Daniel Prince

Jon King has urged his South Shields side to be more clinical in front of goal when they host Birtley Town at Peterlee tomorrow (Saturday).

The Mariners got back to winning ways on Monday with a 2-1 triumph at Esh Winning, but King was frustrated with the number of chances his side squandered.

The failure to kill the game off almost cost Shields, with Esh Winning pulling a goal back late on before Stephen Ramsey – who had earlier scored twice – was sent off.

They held on for the three points – partly due to some fine saves from goalkeeper Steven Hubery – and King is hopeful their chance conversion rate will be much-improved this weekend.

He said: “I thought Steven Hubery was outstanding against Esh Winning.

“He didn’t have a lot to do, but what he did have to do was massively important. He made two excellent saves, including two one-on-one saves, which kept the lads in it.

“That goes down to the lads not being clinical, and if it wasn’t for the saves Steven made, it could have easily cost us.

“We need to be a lot more clinical in front of goal, because we are creating lots of chances.

“We created six or seven really good chances against Esh Winning, and we’ve got to learn to take them.

“If we can take them, the games will be a lot more comfortable, because it got a bit edgy on Monday when it shouldn’t have done.”

The Birtley game is the first of three home fixtures to finish the season for Shields, with Ryton & Crawcrook Albion and Stokesley Sports Club also set to visit Peterlee.

Tomorrow will be the third time the Mariners have met Birtley this season, and there is little to choose between them in Ebac Northern League Division Two.

Shields are 15th on 44 points, while Birtley – who have played a game more – are two places and two points behind.

When they faced each other in the reverse fixture in November, Birtley ran out 3-1 winners, while in February, Shields won an Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup tie 3-0.

King is expecting a “sterner test” this time, though.

He added: “We’re hoping to get another three points. It’s a home game, and we’ve played them a couple of times already this season.

“We beat them 3-0 in the Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup the last time we played them.

“They are no strangers. They’ve got good forwards and had a couple of players missing the last time we played them, so I think this will be a lot sterner test.”

Four of Shields’ Under-18s players – Ryan Bolam, Ewan Simpson, Jonny Bainbridge and Logan Powell – took part in Thursday’s senior training session, two days after helping the young Mariners to a 4-0 win at Ryhope CW.

They again impressed King, who is pleased with the first-team group’s camaraderie at present.

He said: “They’re a good set of lads, and they had a good training session on Thursday.

“It was good to see some of the Under-18s train again and do very well. They are hopefully going to be the future of the club.

“We’ve got a good team morale at the moment, but that can sharply go if we don’t get another good result, so hopefully we can get another good result on Saturday and another three points.”

Shields are set to be without Paul Kane and Baptiste Fixot this weekend, but Chris Renshaw and Michael Turner should return, while Gary Crutwell could also be back.

The Under-18s, meanwhile, travel to Shildon in the Durham County FA League tomorrow.

*You can hear King’s full pre-match interview ahead of the Birtley game on MarinersTV from this afternoon.*