Preview: South Shields vs FC Halifax Town
South Shields take on National League outfit FC Halifax Town on Saturday as the teams do battle for a place in the first round of the Emirates FA Cup.
The Mariners are looking to reach that stage of the competition for the first time since the club reformed in 1974 but are in for a tough encounter with a side which competed in the National League play-offs last season.
A game of this magnitude – arguably among the biggest in Shields’ recent history – would be expected to attract a crowd in excess of 3,000 in normal circumstances.
However, due to current restrictions the attendance will be limited to 300, with all tickets having been sold.
The club greatly regrets that more supporters will not be able to cheer the team on at 1st Cloud Arena but appeals for fans to get behind the players from home by watching the live stream, which can be accessed and paid for by clicking here. The stream will cost £5 to watch.
The lack of a bumper crowd has been one of the major talking points in the lead-up to the fixture, but motivation is not expected to be an issue for the Mariners, who were defeated by Hartlepool United at this stage of the competition three years ago.
Joint manager Graham Fenton said: “It’s hugely disappointing that 1st Cloud Arena won’t be packed to the rafters with home and away supporters, because it would have been a tremendous occasion for everyone to be involved in.
“Nevertheless, we are still hugely looking forward to this game and challenge, because it’s still the FA Cup and we want to go as far as possible in it.
“Not so long ago, we had the big disappointment of being beaten by Hartlepool United at this stage and we still carry some regrets about that match.
“There’s still a handful of players within our squad who will remember that occasion vividly and will want to go at least one step further.
“Those disappointing occasions in football only make you more determined when the next opportunity arises to go one better, and we’ll be giving it everything we’ve got to achieve that goal.”
Shields go into the tie having drawn 0-0 with local rivals Morpeth in midweek, and lost 1-0 at home to Matlock Town last Saturday.
Fenton, though, has been pleased with recent performances and has called for the Mariners to stick to their principles against Halifax.
He added: “Looking back across the last three games, we feel the performances have been stronger than the results have shown.
“We could have won in normal time based on our second half display at Southport and our performance across the whole game against Matlock – when we had 17 attempts at goal to their three – made it hugely disappointing to lose 1-0, but football can be cruel at times and that was one of those occasions.
“We believe we did enough against Morpeth to earn all three points because of the chances we created, but it wasn’t to be.
“We are pleased with how the players have performed over those games but it will also be great to welcome some of the injured lads back at some point.”
Shields remain without Luke Daly and Nathan Lowe, although both are progressing well in their recovery from knee injuries.
Captain Jon Shaw is a doubt for the 3pm kick-off against his former side.
Tickets for the match are sold out but a live stream is available by clicking here.