Match Preview: Gainsborough Trinity vs South Shields
South Shields could seal a remarkable fourth consecutive championship in Saturday’s final day showdown – but need a three-point swing in their favour.
The Mariners must win at play-off chasers Gainsborough Trinity and hope that leaders Farsley Celtic are beaten at home by relegation-threatened Marine to clinch the title.
Anything else would result in a play-off place, so Shields undoubtedly go into proceedings as underdogs.
With up to 500 supporters expected to join them on the trip to Lincolnshire, though, the Mariners make the journey in bullish mood.
They have secured points with goals in second half stoppage time in each of their last three games, most recently on Monday, when Luke Daly’s 95th-minute goal sealed a 3-2 win over Scarborough Athletic.
Buoyed by that victory, joint manager Lee Picton believes anything is possible.
He said: “The game against Scarborough was just about the most exciting one we’ve had at Mariners Park since Graham (Fenton) and I took charge.
“We got there by hook or by crook and it means that there’s something for us to play for in the last game of the season.
“If things like what happened on Monday can happen, then anything can happen this weekend.
“Much stranger things have happened in football than three-point swings on the last day of the season.
“We just have to concentrate on our game.”
The fighting qualities shown by the Mariners over recent weeks, with the title on the line, has particularly pleased Picton.
He added: “We’ve talked a lot about personality and character.
“We talk about it all the time in terms of the culture we want to continue to build at this club.
“The lads have done exceptionally well.
“When you think of some of the really tough phases of the season we’ve been through, to go into the last game with winning the title still a possibility is testament to how much the lads have stuck together, worked really hard and shown a lot of grit and determination, as well as the more glamorous, attractive football side of things.
“We’re chomping at the bit now to give a really good account of ourselves.”
Gainsborough have plenty to play for themselves on Saturday.
They go into the game sitting a place outside the play-off spots on goal difference, and are unbeaten in their last four games.
Picton said: “It’s a massive challenge, because Gainsborough are still fighting and scrapping with Buxton for the last play-off spot.
“There will be absolutely no danger of them having their flip-flops on.
“They will come out at home and try to be on the front foot, I expect, giving it everything they’ve got to win the game.
“We couldn’t have really asked for a tougher test heading into the last game of the season, but it’s a challenge we relish.
“If we can show some of the levels we showed in the first half on Monday, we’ve got a great chance of getting three points.”
Shields go into the game with no new injury concerns, with Carl Finnigan having made his return from a long-term ankle injury as a substitute on Monday.
Kick-off at The Martin & Co Arena – which has a post code of DN21 2QW – is at 3pm.
Gainsborough have released information for travelling supporters ahead of the game. That can be viewed by clicking here.