Preview: South Shields vs Washington
South Shields face what looks set to be their toughest test of the season so far on Saturday when Washington visit Mariners Park in a ‘huge’ FA Vase clash.
High-flying Ebac Northern League Division One side Washington are unbeaten in the league so far this season after winning promotion last time out.
They were knocked out of the FA Cup in heart-breaking circumstances on Tuesday when a goal in the last minute of extra-time handed Marine a 3-2 victory.
Their success in that competition underlined their quality, though, and Shields manager Jon King is expecting his side to start the game as underdogs at Mariners Park.
However, he feels the Mariners can pull off a win – with the help of their ‘absolutely brilliant’ supporters.
King said: “It would be nice to have the town behind us again on Saturday, because we’re going to need them against a very good team.
“For once, I think we’ll possibly be the underdogs. Every game we play, we tend to be expected to win, but the pressure is on Washington this time.
“It’s a huge game, and I’m sure our supporters will help us.
“They’ve been absolutely brilliant, and I want to say that personally. They’re like a 12th man.
“It’s fantastic to have those fans behind us, and we must have taken about 150 of them to Whickham in midweek, which was a huge help.
“There are very few clubs in the Northern League with that type of support – it’s a fantastic following, and we really appreciate it.”
Shields won once and lost once against Washington last season in Division Two, and King knows the threat they possess.
He added: “Washington are arguably the best team in the First Division at the moment.
“They’ve got excellent players and really good forwards, and it will be tough.
“They have fantastic players in the final third of the pitch, so we’re going to need a proper performance from defensive areas, which we’ve done of late.
“It would be lovely to get another clean sheet against Washington.”
Captain Leepaul Scroggins said: “The league is the most important thing for us, but it’s nice to get a good cup run and there’s none better than the FA Vase.
“The Northern League is brilliant for it, and we always seem to get a team to Wembley.
“It’s going to be a great game, and it will test how good we are, because they’re flying in the First Division.
“Fingers crossed there’ll be a really good crowd there again and it’s looking like being a nice day.
“A lot of people are talking about it, and with the three points on Tuesday, I’m sure people will be buzzing.
“Let’s see if we can go on a good cup run. It would be nice to beat Washington and do that.
“It’s a bit unfortunate that we’ve got them, but we’ve got to beat everybody, so I’m looking forward to it and it’ll be a great test for us.”
Shields are set to welcome back Julio Arca, Robert Briggs, Daryll Hall and Adam Sakr after they missed Tuesday’s win at Whickham, but David Foley will remain out for the 3pm kick-off.
Admission prices are £5 for adults, £3 for students and over-65s, and £1 for under-16s.
Below is the front cover of the programme for the game, featuring Andrew Bulford. You can buy your copy at the ground ahead of kick-off.
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.