Match Preview: South Shields vs Blyth Spartans, pre-season friendly
South Shields take on Blyth Spartans on Saturday as they step up their preparations for the Evo-Stik Premier Division season.
The Mariners have recorded two wins out of two in pre-season but are expecting their toughest test yet against Alun Armstrong’s Spartans, who narrowly missed out on a National League North play-off place last season.
The clash with Blyth will see Shields joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton come up against one of their former clubs, with both having spent time among the backroom team at Croft Park.
The links continue on the pitch, too, with Spartans set to include former Shields players Jamie Holmes, Alex Nicholson, Pete Jameson and Adam Wrightson in their squad.
Picton is expecting a difficult encounter in the 3pm kick-off at Mariners Park.
He said: “We know it’s going to provide a real stern test for us, but we’re really looking forward to the challenge and taking another step closer to where we want to be.
“Blyth will be a couple of weeks ahead of us, because their competitive season starts on August 4, whereas we’ve still got another month before we start ours.
“Hopefully that will not be reflected too much in the game and we’ll give as good as we get, which I’m sure we will.
“We had a really good, competitive friendly against them at Blyth last season and we’ll look to do the same again this year.”
Shields beat Consett 2-1 last Friday and then triumphed 4-3 against a team put together by agency Catalyst Professional Sports Management on Tuesday.
A number of academy prospects made their mark on Tuesday, including Max Cowburn, who scored a stunning goal.
Picton is expecting more youngsters to make a name for themselves in pre-season.
He added: “One of the frustrations of non-league and part-time football is that in pre-season you probably won’t have all of the first-team squad together and available at any one time.
“That brings with it challenges but it’s understandable and where we’re at.
“People need to have holidays and spend time with their families and we completely understand that.
“That also brings opportunities for other players.
“We finished Tuesday’s game with six of the 11 players on the pitch being academy level at the club, and they possibly gave the fans the most entertaining portion of the game.
“It obviously gets stretched in the latter stages, but it was really good to see lads who myself and Graham have worked with day-in, day-out get that opportunity, and some of them got that opportunity for the first time.
“I’m sure that brought with it some nerves, but at the same time, they did really well.
“It was nice to finish the game on the winning side, and those young lads played a big part in that.”
HISTORY – with Bob Wray
South Shields and Blyth Spartans are old friends, and an examination of their careers shows that the clubs first met in 1907, when Shields were then titled South Shields Adelaide, eight years after their formation and then a member of the Northern Alliance.
The earlier South Shields Athletic met the Spartans 10 years earlier in the same league.
South Shields Adelaide joined the North Eastern League in 1909 and Blyth also prior to WWI.
Shields dropped the affix Adelaide in 1910, and became a member of the Football League in 1919. The reserve XI then played Blyth Spartans in the NEL until 1930.
Shields reformed in 1936 and played against the Spartans in the NEL, and both clubs joined the Midland League in 1958 and the Northern Counties League in 1960, until in 1963 Blyth joined the Northern League.
Since then they have progressed to higher levels of the non-league game and currently are a member of the National League North.