Match Preview: South Shields vs Radcliffe, The Pitching In Northern Premier League
South Shields return to action with a home fixture against in-form Radcliffe on Saturday (3pm kick-off).
The Mariners have not played since the New Year’s Day victory over Scarborough Athletic at 1st Cloud Arena, with last Saturday’s trip to Mickleover postponed due to positive COVID-19 cases and widespread player unavailability in the Shields squad.
There is more positive news on that front ahead of the meeting with Radcliffe, who are 14th in the Pitching In Northern Premier League. Shields sit fourth, with games in hand on all those above them, and could go as high as second if they win and other results go their way.
Manager Graham Fenton insists the league table counts for little heading into Saturday’s game.
Radcliffe have been in superb form since Bobby Grant took over as player-manager in October and have tasted defeat just four times in the league since then as they have gradually climbed the table.
The Boro are a different proposition to the team Shields defeated 4-0 in the reverse fixture in September, something Fenton was keen to stress after watching them narrowly beaten by promotion-chasing Bamber Bridge in midweek.
He said: “Having watched Radcliffe on Tuesday, I’m well aware that their current placing of 14th is not a reflection of where they are at.
“They are a much-improved side from the last time we played them in September, and our players are fully aware that this is going to be a really tough examination of where we’re at.
“Since Bobby Grant took over as player-manager, he has got them really well-organised and playing a good brand of football.
“The way they play the game should mean that the match is a very good spectacle, as both teams like to keep the ball on the floor as much as possible and try to play through the thirds from the back.
“We know we’re going to have to be at our best to come away with the three points.”
All those previously infected with COVID-19 are expected to return to contention for Shields against Radcliffe, with Conor Tee, Alex Kempster and Joao Gomes – who were all set to miss the Mickleover game with injuries – also expected to be available.
Fenton is hopeful JJ Hooper and Cedric Main will return after injuries, but Jordan Hunter (arm), Callum Ross (knee) and Myles Boney (ankle) will all miss out.
Shields have covered for the loss of goalkeeper Boney – who is expected to be back in training in 10 days – by signing Barrow goalkeeper Scott Moloney on a one-month loan. He could make his debut on Saturday.
Kick-off at 1st Cloud Arena on Saturday is at 3pm, with the turnstiles set to open at 12.30pm.
Admission prices are £10 for adults, £8 for students, over-65s and disabled supporters, and £3 for under-16s, and tickets – including seats in the newly-improved CEFO Group Stand – can be purchased in advance until 12pm on matchday by clicking here. Cash turnstiles will also be in operation.
Segregation will be in place, with Radcliffe supporters to be directed to turnstiles 3 and 4. Shields fans, meanwhile, can enter the ground through turnstiles 1, 2, 5 and 6.
Happy Hour pricing will be in place at all bars between 12.30pm and 2pm, and from 6pm to 7pm.
Meanwhile, a mobile vaccine team will visit 1st Cloud Arena ahead of the game, offering first, second and booster doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to anyone aged 12 and over. The minibus will be located outside of turnstiles 1 and 2 between 10am and 3pm.
Programmes are priced at £2 and feature an in-depth interview with cover star JJ Hooper, columns from Graham Fenton and Blair Adams, an in-depth look at Radcliffe, a catch-up with former Shields defender Gary Brown, all the latest from our Foundation, Academy and Ladies team, and so much more.
If you are unable to attend the game, follow live updates on the club’s Twitter channel, www.twitter.com/southshieldsfc.