Darlington Preview

By Daniel Prince

An emotional day of celebration lies in wait on Saturday as the club plays its first game back at Mariners Park after a two-year absence.

Darlington are the visitors for the pre-season friendly, which will kick-off at 3pm.

It is South Shields’ first fixture of pre-season, and Darlington will provide a stern test.

Martin Gray’s side have won two promotions in the last three seasons after being demoted to the Northern League in 2012.

They last visited Mariners Park during their Northern League promotion campaign of 2012-13, when a crowd of 858 saw Darlo run out 3-0 winners.

There will be less riding on the result this time, of course, and it is hoped that this will be a day that followers of both clubs will be able to thoroughly enjoy.

As well as the game, there will be the opportunity for fans to see the improvements made to Mariners Park, which include a new fence, new turnstiles and other general refurbishments.

A new, bigger and refurbished downstairs bar at the ground will also be open, although the official opening will be on a later date.

The ground – and bar – will open at 12pm, while the club’s junior teams will be playing on the bottom pitch at the ground from that time.

At about 2.20pm, the 10th South Shields Boys’ Brigade and Girls’ Association will perform a marching band routine on the pitch, and then the football will take centre stage at 3pm as the two teams take to the field.

At half-time, the Mariners’ Under-10s side will take to the pitch to play, with all aspects of the club taking centre stage on a momentous day.

The match itself will be a chance for Shields supporters to see players past and present, and mark the dawn of a new era.

With most of last season’s squad still at the club, and having been added to by a host of players, it promises to be an interesting afternoon on the pitch, as well as off it.

Under-16s can attend the game free of charge, while it is £5 for adults and £3 for over-65s. All support would be greatly appreciated.