Norton Preview plus video
By Daniel Prince – video below
Manager Jon King says South Shields are relishing the task of becoming the first side to win at Norton this season tomorrow (Saturday).
However, the Mariners will go into the game without the suspended Chris Locke and Stephen Ramsey, as well as the injured Aron Burn and Chris Feasey, while Ben Riding is also expected to miss out.
Michael Turner could return for the game, while Chris Rue will be back, with Shields going into the game on the back of last week’s 3-1 loss to Ebac Northern League Division Two leaders Seaham Red Star at Peterlee.
Norton and Stockton Ancients, meanwhile, are fourth, and have not lost at home in the league all season.
They are in the thick of a promotion battle, and King says all of the pressure is on them heading into the match at Norton Sports Complex.
He said: “All of the pressure was on Seaham to win last week, and even more so on Norton this weekend. They aren’t certainties to go up yet.
“They haven’t lost at home all season, so that’s something we’ll be mentioning to the lads.
“We always have good games at Norton – it’s a nice, big pitch – but they’re a good side.
“It’s going to be really hard. They’ve got good players and are going for promotion, but these are the games you want to play in.
“I’ve got no doubt in my mind that if we play as well as we can, we can beat anybody, and it’s just disappointing we’re going into the game without some key players.
“Chris Locke has been outstanding for us all season, Stephen Ramsey is an excellent player who works hard for the team, Ben Riding is a massive player for us, Aron Burn has been very good for us this season. They are big characters to be missing as well.
“We’ve also lost Craig Roberts, who has gone back to Brandon, so that’s disappointing.
“The one positive is that it will give chances to a few lads who have been in the background perhaps recently – the likes of Baptiste Fixot and Alex Kempster.
“Baptiste started last week and took his chance well, and Alex came on, so they’re both likely to get another opportunity this weekend.
“It’s important everyone who is involved grabs the opportunity with both hands.”
Shields led against runaway leaders Seaham 1-0 at half-time last week, while they created numerous opportunities in the first half, including a penalty, which was saved.
King was disappointed to see the game slip away, but says the first half performance of his side has given him added ‘belief’ they can get something out of tomorrow’s game.
He added: “It gives you belief that we can compete with the best. It was only a few weeks ago that we played Washington off the park, and beat them, as well.
“It’s nice that we can put those performances in against the top sides, but the disappointing thing for me was we couldn’t continue that performance in the second half last week, or take enough of our chances in the first half.
“We weren’t clinical, and if we were, I think the game would have been over by half-time.”
Kick-off is at 3pm at Norton Sports Complex, based on Station Road, Norton, Stockton-on-Tees, TS20 1PE.
*You can hear King’s thoughts ahead of tomorrow’s game in the video at the top of this article*