MATCH PREVIEW: South Shields vs Witton Albion, Evo-Stik Premier Division
South Shields begin life in the Evo-Stik Premier Division on Saturday as Witton Albion make the trip to Mariners Park for a 3pm kick-off.
The Mariners have new signings Brendan Pearson and Ursene Mouanda available after both completed moves to the club on Friday.
Shields will come up against familiar opponents, having defeated Witton in an FA Cup qualifier last September.
Pre-season results were mixed for Lee Picton and Graham Fenton’s side, but there is confidence in the camp that they can hit the ground running.
Picton said: “This is a date in the diary we’ve been looking forward to for a long time now.
“It seems like an age since we started pre-season, and having to watch everybody else get their season underway at all levels has been a bit frustrating.
“There were many challenges for us to overcome during pre-season.
“Not only did we have to integrate a high number of players into the squad and into the club, we also did a lot of tactical work and tried different things to help us get prepared for what will undoubtedly be a tough season with lots of different challenges.
“Not everything in pre-season went perfectly well, but that doesn’t worry us as we feel we have learned a lot during the process and are better for it.”
Shields will be without the suspended Darren Lough and Matty Pattison suspended, and Barrie Smith and Anthony Callaghan certain to miss out with injuries.
There are also doubts over captain Jon Shaw, Blair Adams, Lee Mason and Gary Brown, and Picton has hinted some of the club’s talented academy players could be given a chance tomorrow.
Picton and Fenton are set to embark on their third season in charge of the Mariners, and are targeting a third promotion.
Despite a mixed pre-season, Picton is confident that goal can be achieved.
He added: “Graham and I are entering our third season as joint managers of the club and we are both more determined and focused than ever to continue moving the club forwards on the pitch.
“Maintaining the same level of success we have enjoyed in the last two seasons is going to be a difficult challenge, but one we’re massively looking forward to.
“We believe the squad of players we have is capable of delivering similar levels of success this season.”
Kick-off at Mariners Park is at 3pm and admission – which can be paid at the turnstiles – costs £10 for adults, £8 for students and over-65s, and £3 for under-16s.