Match Preview: Darlington vs South Shields, Emirates FA Cup
South Shields visit Blackwell Meadows for the first time on Saturday as they take on Darlington in the second qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup.
The Mariners are playing at this stage of the competition for the first time since the 1997-98 season, and hope to bridge a gap of two leagues to make further progress.
They will be backed by a large away following, with about 700 Shields supporters having been snapped up for the game so far.
Joint manager Lee Picton has told of his excitement ahead of the tie – and of his belief that the Mariners can emerge with a victory.
He said: “Saturday is the kind of game that everyone should want to be a part of.
“It will be a great occasion and an exceptionally tough battle for us.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that it will be our toughest test so far this season, and we’ve got to raise our game in certain areas if we want to compete.
“We’ve always got massive confidence in our side, though.
“If we can get our levels right and a couple of things can just start to click for us, it will be a really good game and we’ll have a real good chance.”
After losing their 45-match unbeaten record last Saturday as they fell to a 4-2 defeat at Colwyn Bay, Shields returned to winning ways on Tuesday with a 2-1 victory at Colne.
While Picton insists there are still improvements to come from the Mariners, he felt Tuesday was a step in the right direction.
He added: “Tuesday was all about the three points. I think our general play deserved a much more comfortable win, but we were happy with the 2-1 scoreline nonetheless.
“Our general play was pretty good at times, but we nearly paid the price for not converting really good chances and situations into more goals and that’s an area we’re looking for an improvement in.
“We know we’ve got lots and lots of quality at the top of the pitch, but at the moment it’s just not quite firing. When it does, we’re going to be a real proposition to cope with for any team.”
Darlington go into Saturday’s game having brought a seven-match winless streak to an end on Wednesday with a 3-0 victory over FC United of Manchester in National League North. Martin Gray’s side are 11th in the table.
Kick-off at Blackwell Meadows – which has a post code of DL1 5NR – is at 3pm. For directions to the ground, click here.