Cheltenham Town vs South Shields: Mariners aim to make more history
South Shields will aim to extend their longest run in the Emirates FA Cup since the club reformed in 1974 when they take on Cheltenham Town on Saturday.
After overcoming Warrington Town, Ashton United, Southport and FC Halifax Town, the Mariners must now defeat Football League opposition to claim a place in round two for the first time.
Cheltenham qualified for the League Two play-offs last season and are currently sixth in the table, so Shields are set to face one of the toughest tests possible at this stage of the competition.
However, they go into the match full of confidence having won their last four matches and kept clean sheets in their last five games.
They have also twice tasted victory over higher division opponents in this season’s Emirates FA Cup, and although Cheltenham will be the highest-ranked side they have faced, joint manager Lee Picton insists the Mariners are not heading to the Jonny-Rocks Stadium simply to make the numbers up.
He said: “We go into Saturday’s game full of confidence because we’ve put a run of wins together and five clean sheets.
“We’ve got to go down there with a real level of belief.
“We haven’t been through this whole journey in the FA Cup so far just to turn up and take part.
“That’s so far from our mentality it’s untrue.
“We’ve prepared well this week and we fully intend to give a really good account of ourselves.”
Saturday’s game will be played behind closed doors, robbing Shields supporters of the opportunity to travel to a Football League ground in their numbers to cheer on the Mariners.
However, Picton knows the team will feel their support from home, with a live stream available by clicking here.
He added: “It’s so unfortunate that the fans can’t be rewarded with being there on what is a really special and unique day for the club.
“I’m sure there will be many watching at home, and they’ll be glued to their laptops and TVs.
“They’ll be willing us on all the way and I want to thank everyone who has continued to support the club wholeheartedly throughout this difficult period.
“They’ve done whatever they can to support the club and it really is appreciated.”
Shields have shown tremendous battling qualities in their road to the first round, with their run featuring penalty shootout victories over Warrington and Southport as well as a hugely impressive 2-0 win over National League outfit FC Halifax Town.
The odds will again be stacked against them this weekend, but Picton insists they must attack their latest challenge with no fear.
He said: “We deserve this opportunity to play at a league ground, albeit not in front of a crowd.
“We’re looking forward to pitting our wits against what will be a top side.
“Like I said before the game against Halifax, if we have a really good day and they have a not so good day, we’ll have a chance.”
Although midfielder Nathan Lowe is in line to return from a knee injury in Saturday’s game, Shields have doubts over captain Jon Shaw and defender Jamie Sterry.
Jason Gilchrist is another player back in contention, but Luke Daly remains out with a long-term knee injury.
Kick-off in Saturday’s game is at 3pm and a live stream is available to purchase for £10 from Cheltenham’s website here.