King boosted by Smith’s return
By Daniel Prince
Jon King feels Barrie Smith’s return to the fold has given everyone at South Shields a major boost heading into the final four games of the season.
Smith, who captains the side, missed over two months of action after undergoing groin surgery at the start of February.
He made his comeback as a late substitute in last Thursday’s 1-0 win at Whickham, and is expected to be given another run-out in tomorrow’s match against Chester-le-Street at Peterlee (3pm kickoff).
King is delighted to have the midfielder back, with Shields having won just two of their 13 games during his injury lay-off.
The manager said: “Barrie came on near the end against Whickham and it was just a case of him getting some minutes.
“He has been out for such a long time, so it’s best to ease him back, which we’ll do again tomorrow.
“When he ran onto the pitch last Thursday, it was a good boost for everybody, including the fans, who gave him a good cheer.
“Barrie is our captain, and is infectious.
“He’s a winner, and we’ve certainly missed him in the middle of the park.”
The Mariners still have four games left to play after Tuesday’s clash with Ryton & Crawcrook Albion was postponed due to thick fog at Peterlee.
They are in a more positive frame of mind heading into their final fixtures, though, with the win at eighth-placed Whickham giving Shields something to build on.
The performance of defender Paul Greenwell – who has spent much of his time at the club on the bench – at Whickham was another plus for King, who played him in a back three with Chris Locke and Ben Riding.
King added: “Paul hasn’t played a lot, but did very well at Whickham.
“He maybe needs to lose a bit of weight, and a good pre-season would help him long-term.
“I was also impressed with Shaun Smith and Adam Burnicle on the flanks, who were fantastic going up and down.”