Match Preview: South Shields vs Morpeth Town, BetVictor Northern Premier Division
South Shields and Morpeth Town renew their rivalry on Saturday in an eagerly awaited league meeting at Mariners Park.
The pair were regular adversaries during their days in the Northern League and will now lock horns again in the BetVictor Northern Premier Division.
Shields joint manager Lee Picton is expecting a “fantastic” game, and it’s easy to see why.
The two clubs have been involved in two pulsating FA Vase ties over the last five years and several memorable league tussles, with both remaining fiercely ambitious for the future.
Shields go into Saturday’s clash sitting top of the table, a point clear of second-placed Lancaster City having played one game fewer.
Morpeth, meanwhile, are 16 points behind their neighbours in 15th, but have four games in hand on the Mariners.
Picton knows what sort of test awaits his side in front of what is expected to be a bumper Mariners Park crowd.
He said: “I’m sure everyone has been looking forward to this game for some time and hopefully it will live up to the expectation.
“Morpeth will bring a healthy contingent of supporters with them to Mariners Park and there will be a fantastic atmosphere for everyone to enjoy.
“They will bring a very strong team to face us, so we’re massively looking forward to the challenge against a side that should be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.
“I’m sure it will be a fantastic game of football for everyone to watch.”
Former Shields players Wayne Phillips, Michael Turner, Ben Harmison and Iulian Petrache are among Morpeth’s ranks, with Harmison the most recent to have swapped the Mariners for the Highwaymen having moved in the summer.
Shields know the capabilities of not just that quartet but the rest of the Morpeth squad, having been involved in a similar rise through the leagues over recent seasons.
The Mariners go into the game on the back of a 1-1 draw at Stourbridge in the Buildbase FA Trophy on Tuesday, when they conceded an equaliser in the third minute of stoppage time.
Picton is expecting a more rounded performance from his team on Saturday.
He added: “The players deserve a lot of credit for their first half showing on Tuesday off the back of a five-and-a-quarter hour journey to the Midlands.
“In the first 45 minutes we completely outclassed a strong Step 3 outfit and created a number of clear-cut goalscoring opportunities with some fast-flowing, high-quality phases of play.
“For me, the level of the first half performance made the second half even more disappointing and head scratching as for some reason we stopped believing in ourselves on the ball in possession and took up a back foot mentality, which swung the momentum in Stourbridge’s favour.
“That’s something that we must learn from moving forwards.
“We’re constantly telling the players to believe in themselves and trust who we are and what we do.
“If we can achieve that, as we demonstrated quite clearly in the first half on Tuesday we are a force to be reckoned with against any team at this level.”
Shields go into Saturday’s game without the injured Luke Daly and Josh Gillies, but hope to welcome back Jordan Hunter and Gary Brown after they missed out in midweek.
Craig Baxter, Adam Thurston, Lee Mason, Nathan Lowe, Jason Gilchrist and Sanmi Odelusi are all doubts, but will all hope to shrug off knocks to play a key part.
Kick-off at Mariners Park is at 3pm and tickets can be bought at discounted rates before midnight on Friday by clicking here.
Turnstile admission prices are £10 for adults, £8 for students and over-65s, and £3 for under-16s.
The turnstiles will open at 12.30pm and our usual Happy Hours will be in operation between 12.30pm and 1.30pm, and from 5pm to 6pm.