King reacts to Darlington RA win
By Daniel Prince
Jon King says South Shields’ players set the standard for the rest of the season in their 2-1 win at Darlington RA on Saturday.
Goals from Chris Renshaw and Paul Kane secured an impressive victory for the Mariners against a side which started the day sixth in Ebac Northern League Division Two.
King felt it was arguably Shields’ best performance of the season as they chalked up their first win of 2015, with Ben Riding and Renshaw impressing on their first appearances since rejoining the club.
The manager felt the duo helped “lift” the rest of the side, while he found it “impossible” to pick out a man of the match, with every player impressing.
He said: “It was a really good performance. I knew we would get a big lift from the two lads coming in, as we had improved the areas we needed to.
“We were stronger at the back with Ben coming in, and that also allowed us to move Chris Locke into central midfield.
“Chris Renshaw and Chris Locke played really well, but everyone was fantastic and it was almost impossible to pick out a man of the match. Everyone was on song.
“We’ve had some fantastic performances, but after the game everyone agreed that was probably the best one in terms of everybody working for each other throughout the 90 minutes.
“We had other fantastic games earlier in the season, like against Northallerton at home, when we won 5-3, but this one was great for the togetherness of the whole camp and the way everyone worked so hard.
“We didn’t use any substitutes, and those who were on the bench understood the reasons why.
“It was a really high-tempo game and the pitch was heavy, so it would have taken someone 10 or 15 minutes to get used to the game and the pitch. That would have been unfair on them.”
Lee Maitland started the game up front for Shields, with Barrie Smith playing off him, and Kane and James Talbot working in the wide positions.
It meant King tweaked the system, and he felt it worked a treat at Brinkburn Road.
He added: “We had more protection in front of the back four. We changed the system slightly, and we were a lot more compact, which was important. We’ll change things slightly depending on the game.
“Paul Kane wants to play up front, but we put Lee Maitland up top as he is big and strong, while Paul’s strengths are facing the goal, rather than with his back to it.
“Lee was excellent, in the second half especially. That allowed Barrie Smith to get in spaces behind the centre halves and full-backs, and other players to go and support them.
“We played some fantastic football, especially in the second half with our front four. Maitland was the centre piece, with Barrie Smith over the shoulder and Paul Kane down the left, sometimes cutting inside, with James Talbot on the right.
“Barrie Smith had more freedom in that role and that suited him.
“It worked fantastically well, and now we need to try and produce performances like that again and again and again.
“We are targeting consistency, and if we can get that, we have proved we are a match for anyone.”
King says no one will be getting carried away with Saturday’s win, although he senses “something has changed” in the team, and is delighted with the increased competition for places.
He said: “We’re not going to get carried away, because we know it’s just one game. We’ve had platforms like this earlier in the season.
“I feel something has changed now, though. It’s only one game, but the two lads have come in and are leaders.
“Hopefully the rest of the group will follow like they did on Saturday.
“Everyone has got to keep on top of their game because people will be wanting their shirt.
“We had five lads on the bench on Saturday, and about five others who were unable to play, like David Molloy, Alex Kempster, Craig Roberts and Adam Ward.
“Hopefully we will go on a run now and try to get into the top 10.”
On areas his side can improve in, King added: “If we were a little bit more clinical in front of goal on Saturday, we could have scored another two or three.
“Niki Lawson didn’t have much to do, as the lads defended really well as a team and worked hard, but he did make a couple of great saves.
“We restricted their chances, although we survived what could have been a penalty against us and they also missed a great chance that they should have scored from, so there are still areas we can improve in.
“We can improve and we will improve, but we did very well and it was an excellent team performance.”
King was also happy with how vocal his team were following the additions of Renshaw and Riding.
He added: “It was a difficult pitch to play on, but the lads took the instructions on board, which was great. Every player was given individual instructions and they all took them on board.
“It also helps when you have vocal people in the team like Ben Riding, Chris Locke and Chris Renshaw.
“That gives everyone else a lift, and Barrie Smith is a leader as well.
“We had lots of leaders on Saturday, and the new signings obviously gave everyone a lift as well. They came in and performed, and the rest of the lads rose to that as well.”
Shields did not concede in the second half on Saturday, something King was particularly pleased about.
He continued: “We have conceded a lot of goals this season in the 15 minutes after half-time, so we needed to be strong in that period, and we were.
“To keep a clean sheet in the second half was fantastic. We were the dominant team, although they had a couple of breakaways, which you would expect.
“The only disappointing thing is we don’t have a game next week. When you have a result and a performance like that, you want to play again straightaway, but unfortunately that’s not to be.”
Shields are next in action when they travel to Birtley Town on Wednesday, January 28 for an Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup quarter-final.