Match Preview: South Shields vs Warrington Town, Evo-Stik Premier Division play-offs
A big crowd is expected to pack into Mariners Park on Saturday as South Shields and Warrington Town go head-to-head in a promotion eliminator.
The match is undoubtedly one of the biggest in Shields’ recent history as they take on Warrington in the final of the Evo-Stik Premier Division play-offs.
The victorious team will not be guaranteed promotion, though, and must beat the winners of the Evo-Stik South Premier Division Central play-offs a week tomorrow to earn a place in National League North.
The Mariners are well aware of the size of their task against a side which beat them home and away in the league campaign.
They did finish a place and three points ahead of the Yellows, though, and will take confidence into Saturday’s tie after they came from behind to beat Buxton in a thrilling semi-final on Tuesday.
With the Durham Challenge Cup final against Shildon to contend with on Friday, followed by the divisional play-off final on Saturday, joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton have rarely been so busy.
But Picton says it’s a challenge everyone involved with the Mariners is relishing.
He said: “We’re just massively excited.
“Myself and Graham have felt like we’ve been spinning a lot of plates recently.
“A lot of really good things have been going on with the academy and we’ve been travelling up and down the country with various high-profile games going on.
“At the start of the season, though, this is the position you want to be in. You want to be so busy.
“There are a lot of footballers and teams out there that are done for all the wrong reasons by the end of April.
“We’re still going and have tonnes to play for, so it’s really exciting.”
Picton is expecting Warrington to provide a stern examination of Shields’ promotion hopes.
The Yellows ended the season with the division’s best defensive record and came from behind to beat Nantwich Town 4-1 in the semi-final on Tuesday.
He added: “It’s going to be a really hard, physical test.
“Again, we’ve got to make sure that the game turns out to be the type of game that we want it to be.
“We’re at home, the surface is good and we can get the ball down and play.
“We showed again on Tuesday that when we do what we’re good at, we’re more than a match for anybody.
“I thought we were unlucky not to get at least a draw against them when they came here last time around, and you’ve got to give them massive credit and respect for lots of reasons.
“Their defensive record and resilience they’ve shown at various stages of the season have been impressive, so we know it’s going to be a massive test, but it’s a test that we’re absolutely relishing.”
Shields are expected to be without left-back Blair Adams after he suffered a hamstring injury in Tuesday’s win.
Kick-off at Mariners Park is at 3pm and admission prices are £10 for adults, £8 for students and over-65s, and £3 for under-16s.
Cash turnstiles will be in operation but fans are encouraged to buy tickets online in advance to avoid the large queues experienced on Tuesday. Tickets can be bought before midnight on Friday by clicking here.
The club is also encouraging supporters to arrive at the ground earlier than usual to ease queuing.
The turnstiles will open at 12pm, and the first Happy Hour will run between 12pm and 1.30pm.
There will also be a Happy Hour in operation between 5pm and 6pm, while the Southend United vs Sunderland game will be shown on the TVs from 5.30pm, with Newcastle United vs Liverpool on at 7.45pm.
The two sets of supporters will be segregated on Saturday following discussions with the police and the league.
South Shields fans will be able to enter via turnstiles one, two and the hospitality entrance, with Warrington supporters to enter via turnstiles three and four, by the 3G pitch.
Home supporters who buy tickets in advance will be able to secure quicker entry by entering through the hospitality entrance.