Norton and Stockton Preview

By Daniel Prince

South Shields return to home soil for the first time in over a month tomorrow (Saturday) when they take on second-placed Norton and Stockton Ancients in Ebac Northern League Division Two.

The Mariners have endured a tough run, and are winless in their last seven matches in all competitions.

However, that has included trips to Division One sides Penrith and Whitley Bay in cup competitions, as well as promotion contenders Washington, Seaham Red Star and Team Northumbria in the league.

Shields have also had to do without captain Barrie Smith for the last four games because of suspension, but they will welcome him back for tomorrow’s fixture.

Jon King’s side go into the game on the back of a narrow 1-0 loss at Team Northumbria on Monday, and the manager was buoyed by the performance of his team in the match.

He said: “We gave a good account of ourselves on Monday against a very good side who have had an excellent start to the season, and I thought we deserved at least a point from the game.

“It was a massive improvement from last Saturday’s game at Seaham Red Star: I was pleased with the work-rate of the lads and how compact we were, so there were certainly positives to take.

“The games are certainly coming thick and fast against very good sides, and it doesn’t get any easier tomorrow.

“Norton and Stockton were top of the league before Team Northumbria replaced them there by beating us on Monday, so we know we’re in for a very difficult match.

“They have had a fantastic start, but if we can perform like we did on Monday and have a little bit more luck in front of goal, there’s no reason why we can’t win.”

King is hopeful of having a host of players back for the match, including Smith, as well as the likes of Lloyd Evans, Paul Kane, David Halliday and Lee Maitland.

However, Shields will be without defender Chris Locke, who will serve a one-match suspension for picking up five bookings this season.

King added: “Barrie has been a massive miss as he’s an excellent player. He’s one of the best players in the league, never mind our side.

“We’re going to have a strong group to come back, which we will need against a good side.

“Unfortunately, we’ll be without Chris Locke tomorrow as he serves a one-match suspension for picking up five bookings.

“He has had a fantastic season so far and we’ll miss him, but we’ve got options and will give it everything to win three points ahead of Tuesday’s home match against Easington Colliery in the Durham Challenge Cup.”

Kick-off at Peterlee’s Eden Lane is at 3pm.