By Daniel Prince
Competitive football will make its long-awaited return to Mariners Park tomorrow (Saturday) when Northallerton Town provide the first competition of the season to South Shields.
It will be the first step towards what the Mariners hope will be a successful return following their return to the ground from a two-year exile in Peterlee.
Shields go into the game on the back of a five-match unbeaten run in pre-season, and four wins over Ebac Northern League Division One sides.
Manager Jon King said: “We had a very good pre-season, and were unbeaten in the last five games against some excellent teams.
“We seemed to get better and better the longer pre-season went on, and we’re feeling very confident ahead of the start of the new campaign.
“We’re going to have to start very well to beat Northallerton, though. Mark Scott went to watch them when they played North Shields in a friendly last week, so we got an in-depth report on their players.
“This is what we’ve been building towards. There’s no point doing well in pre-season if you can’t take that into the league season.
“We won’t be taking anyone lightly at all, and we’re looking forward to the challenge ahead.”
Stephen Ramsey and Paul Kane are suspended for the game, while Phil Gray is on holiday and both Lee Maitland and Jonny Wightman are unavailable because of work and cricket commitments respectively. Daryll Hall is awaiting his international clearance, while there are doubts over Wayne Phillips (groin), Adam Curry (knee), Warren Byrne (illness) and Adam Sakr (ankle).
The match will kick-off at 3pm at Mariners Park. Admission prices are £5 for adults and £3 for over-65s, while under-16s can get in for free.
The club’s junior teams will also be involved in the day, with coaching sessions to take place at 1.30pm and 2.30pm, while a mixture of Under-9s and Under-12s players will walk the first-team out before the match.