Semi-final preview

By Daniel Prince

South Shields are ready for the biggest game of their season so far tomorrow (Tuesday) when they travel to Billingham Town in the semi-final of the Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup.

The Mariners are expected to be backed by a good travelling support after the club organised travel for fans to get to the game at The Evolution Arena.

Manager Jon King feels the supporters could make all the difference in the match, which kicks off at 7.45pm.

He said: “It’s a massive game for the club, as we haven’t been in a final for a few years.

“Hopefully we’ll have quite a few people there to support us from South Shields, as the club has put a bus on.

“It would be great if people came along to support us, as we could do with everyone’s support there.

“It’s one of the biggest games the club has had in a few years, so we need everyone’s support.

“Every time we have had big games over the years, they have always come out to support us, so hopefully that will be the case again on Tuesday.

“We do need everybody’s support from the town, and it would give us a big lift.”

Saturday’s 3-0 loss at Heaton Stannington was a setback for Shields, who had won four of their five games previous to that.

In Ebac Northern League Division Two, Shields are 15th, two places and seven points ahead of Billingham, who beat Stokesley 3-0 on Saturday.

When Shields travelled to Billingham in the league earlier this season, Paul Kane’s second half penalty earned the Mariners a 1-1 draw.

King added: “It’s a cup game, so it’ll be the biggest game of their season as well, as well as ours.

“They’re certainly not going to lie down for us, so we’re going to have to go there and put in a top performance if we’re to get through to the final.

“They won again on Saturday, 3-0, and we had them watched, so I’ve got a good detailed report on them from Connor Lamb, the reporter.

“That was great for him to do that for the club, so we’ll be going through that and will hopefully get everything right so we can go there, put in a really good performance and get the right result.

“It will be a tough game, as Billingham have picked up of late.

“They’re not a bottom six side, in my opinion, so it’s going to be difficult.”

King described Saturday’s loss as a “reality check” for his team, but he says the semi-final is the ideal chance for them to bounce back.

He continued: “In football, there’s always a game around the corner, and they don’t come any bigger for us than Tuesday’s semi-final. It’s a huge game for the club.

“There will be a lot of people who have been really believing in South Shields of late, and I’ve said that to the players.

“People have been believing in the team of late, and they need to get people back on-side with a good performance on Tuesday.

“The players were all disappointed on Saturday, and the dressing room wasn’t a nice place to be.

“It has been fantastic of late, but the dressing room wasn’t a nice place to be on Saturday, and rightly so, because we didn’t perform.

“I’m after a big response, and I’m sure after that defeat, the lads will do that.”

Stephen Ramsey missed Saturday’s game through illness, but King is hopeful the striker will return at Billingham.

However, there are doubts over the fitness of Paul Kane and Barrie Smith, who limped off at Heaton Stannington with groin injuries.

Midfielder Baptiste Fixot is unavailable.

Kick-off at The Evolution Arena, which is based in Bedford Terrace, is at 7.45pm. Postcode: TS23 4AE. For full details on the supporters’ coach, follow the link: Semi-final bus