Match Preview: South Shields vs Stafford Rangers, Evo-Stik Premier Division
South Shields are ready for a vital Easter weekend double-header as the season reaches an exciting climax.
The second-placed Mariners travel to Stafford Rangers on Saturday before a potentially pivotal home clash with Scarborough Athletic on Monday.
With just one more league match to follow those two games, Shields currently sit three points behind leaders Farsley Celtic.
Joint manager Lee Picton says there is no margin for error following last Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Basford United, which ended a run of six straight victories.
He said: “The Bank Holiday weekend usually throws up some interesting results, because there are two games in three days.
“We’ve just got to hope that we’re not one of those interesting results and that we get what we should be looking for on paper.
“That’s no disrespect to the two teams we’re going to be playing against, but we’ve got to be aiming for six points from the two games.
“That has to be our goal over the Bank Holiday weekend, otherwise we could go into the last game with absolutely nothing to play for.
“That’s our over-riding focus.”
With two games in three days coming up, Picton admits he and fellow joint manager Graham Fenton may have to mix things up over the weekend.
He added: “We’re going to have to utilise the squad.
“We’ve got strength in depth and there were some players disappointed last week not to be in the team or the squad in some cases.
“We’re going to have to utilise our strength in depth over the course of the weekend.”
Shields are expecting a difficult encounter against Stafford, who beat them 3-1 in the FA Trophy last season.
The Mariners won the reverse fixture 3-0 in August but Stafford have been much-improved since then, and will be eyeing a win which would make them all but safe from relegation.
Over recent weeks, they have beaten third-placed Warrington Town and drawn against the same opponents, so Picton knows how challenging Saturday’s match could be.
He said: “We’ve got bad memories of Stafford from last season.
“They’re a team that’s been in form recently and have been much-improved over the last few weeks.
“It will be a very, very tough game and we’re going to have to adapt again.
“I imagine the surface is going to be like the one we encountered at Workington recently, and what we need is a similar type of performance.
“We showed a really different side to us on that night and will have to do that again.”
Shields are expected to be without Barrie Smith and Carl Finnigan, although both have returned to training following their long-term injuries.
Kick-off at Marston Road – which has a post code of ST16 3BX – is at 3pm.