South Shields vs Mickleover: Match Preview

South Shields welcome Mickleover to 1st Cloud Arena on Saturday as the new Pitching In Northern Premier League season gets underway.

The match is a 3pm kick-off and admission is restricted to season ticket holders and those with a valid match ticket only.

The Mariners are looking for a strong start to the campaign after a productive pre-season programme which saw them defeat the likes of York City, West Auckland Town and Marske United, and refine the fitness levels of the players after the lockdown period.

Joint manager Graham Fenton is delighted with the options Shields have at their disposal heading into the season opener.

He said: “We feel we have huge strength in depth across the whole squad and competition for places is very high.

“All the players know that any sort of drop in standards will mean there is a high likelihood someone will step into their shoes, and that’s a healthy environment to have.

“As everyone will be aware, we felt aggrieved by the decision which was made at the end of last season, but we’ve firmly put that behind us and are raring to go and improve on our performance to attain that sought-after promotion to National League North.

“We’re also hoping to have a successful run in the FA Cup and FA Trophy, and we feel we have the strength in depth to be able to deal with the busy schedule I’m sure will be more likely than in any previous season.

“Let’s just hope that a second lockdown period doesn’t need to be put in place and that this season can reach its natural conclusion.”

Shields enjoyed a scintillating encounter with Mickleover last season at 1st Cloud Arena, powering to a 5-2 victory after their visitors had battled back from two goals behind.

Alex Kempster could make his competitive debut for the Mariners on Saturday following his move from York City, while Myles Boney and Jordan Hunter – who penned permanent deals with the club in the summer – and Will McCamley, a loan signing from Huddersfield Town, are also in line to play a part.

The highlight of pre-season for Shields was a 3-0 win over National League North side York City, although they were beaten by York’s divisional rivals Gateshead in their most recent outing last Saturday.

The contrast between the Mariners’ performances in those games is something Fenton is not wanting to see a repeat of.

He added: “Over the final two games of pre-season, it’s safe to say we experienced the highs and lows of football in a short period of time.

“We had a very strong performance at home against York and thoroughly deserved to win, albeit against a newly-assembled squad, and four days later we were disappointed with not only the result but also the performance against an impressive Gateshead side.

“Hopefully that has refocused everyone and it shows that if you drop your standards and intensity, this game has a funny way of hitting you where it hurts.”

Shields should have a strong squad to choose from, with Darius Osei and Jon Shaw having both returned to contention over recent weeks, although Luke Daly remains out with his long-term knee injury.

Kick-off at 1st Cloud Arena is at 3pm and ticket holders will be able to access the ground from 12.30pm.