South Shields will bid to continue their outstanding run in the Emirates FA Cup when they host Hartlepool United in the final qualifying round on Saturday.
The game at Mariners Park is undoubtedly one of the biggest in the club’s history, with a sell-out crowd of about 2,900 expected to pack into the ground.
Having already claimed the scalps of three higher-division teams in their run to the fourth qualifying round, on paper Shields face their biggest test yet against National League outfit Pools.
They were relegated from the Football League for the first time at the end of last season, despite a dramatic final-day victory over Doncaster Rovers which almost saved them.
Former Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace defender Craig Harrison took over as the club’s manager during the summer, and after a difficult start to the season, they appear to have turned the corner.
They have climbed to 13th in the table and have lost just once since August, with six wins in their last nine games.
The Mariners, meanwhile, are aiming to reach the first round of the FA Cup for the first time since reforming in 1974.
Having beaten Bridlington Town, Witton Albion, Darlington and York City in the competition so far this season, they are now looking to claim their biggest scalp yet.
WHAT WE’RE SAYING
South Shields joint manager Lee Picton said: “We had the final training session with the players on Thursday, where we outlined areas that we feel we can exploit on Saturday. I’m confident that if the players can reach the levels they did in the previous two rounds, we have a real chance of causing an upset.
“Getting the crowd on our side is a big thing for us, and might just throw them a little bit. I think they will come into the game feeling a little bit anxious and not sure of what to expect. If we can take them out of their comfort zone, that could gain us the upper hand psychologically and we’ll be able to take it from there.
“We almost had a free hit against Darlington and York City in the last two rounds, and it’s the same again on Saturday. We’ve definitely got no pressure on us.
“They are three divisions higher than us, and you can’t get away from that. On paper, they should win the game comfortably, but we’re certainly not planning on that happening.”
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Hartlepool United manager Craig Harrison told Pools PlayerHD: “It’s a huge game; it’s brilliant for the North East. South Shields have done brilliantly to get past Darlington and York but we’ve got to make sure their run ends on Saturday.
“We’ll be favourites for the game and we have to embrace that. There will be people wanting a cup upset – that’s how the world works – but we have to get out there and play like we have for the last six or seven weeks.
“Probably 75% of the people in the building here, both players and staff, are from the North East of England so they know what it’s all about and they’re looking forward to it.
“We’ve got respect for South Shields. They have good players, are a good team and they’re on a great run but we have to make sure it’s all about us.”
South Shields: Joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton hope to have a close to full strength squad to choose from, with Alex Nicholson having returned to training this week after an injury lay-off.
Hartlepool United: Michael Ledger and Luke George should be available for the game after returning to fitness, while Liam Donnelly is back after tion.missing the last two games due to being on international duty with Northern Ireland Under-21s. Conor Newton will miss out with an ankle injury, while Ryan Donaldson, Jake Cassidy and Aaron Cunningham are also ruled out.
Supporters are reminded that all tickets for this game have sold out, and there will be no cash turnstiles.
The turnstiles and bars will open at 12.15pm.
Kick-off on Saturday is at 3pm, and home supporters are advised of different FA rules regarding the consumption of alcohol at this game.
As Hartlepool United are a step one club, rules dictate that no alcohol can be taken or consumed outside of the clubhouse or marquee from two hours before kick-off, until one hour after the game. This ruling also covers the balcony.
Thank you for your support and co-operation with this matter.
DID YOU KNOW?
During his time in charge of The New Saints (TNS) in Wales, Craig Harrison led the team to 27 consecutive victories in the Welsh Premier League, breaking Ajax’s 44-year-old world record for the longest winning streak in top-flight football. It is one of the records the Mariners were chasing down last season on their way to a streak of 32 wins in a row.
Hartlepool left-back Blair Adams was born and lives in South Shields, and was among the huge contingent of Mariners supporters at Wembley for the FA Vase final in May.
South Shields assistant manager Martin Scott spent time in charge of Hartlepool United’s youth team, reserves and first team. Highlights included leading the youth team to the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup – where they lost at Old Trafford against Manchester United – and the first team to the League One play-off final, where they were 2-1 up with eight minutes remaining against Sheffield Wednesday before losing 4-2 after extra-time.
The two clubs met in last season’s Durham Challenge Cup quarter-final, with Shields winning 3-0 against a side mostly made up of Hartlepool’s reserves. They later won the final of the competition at Pools’ home ground, Victoria Park.
We’re delighted to announce two special musical performances will take place in the marquee at Mariners Park.
Beth Hopper will play an acoustic set from 2pm until 2.30pm ahead of the game, and then Taylor Payne – the lead singer of The Understudies – will perform from 5pm until 7pm.
We hope you can join us for some great music before and after the football!
We would like to say thank you to those who have sponsored the game.
Match Sponsor: Shipley Heating
Man of the Match Sponsor: Aztec Colour Print
Programme Sponsor: Hughes Bros Construction Ltd
The mascots for Saturday’s game are Niamh Burgess and Jack Burgess (pictured below). We hope you enjoy the day!
Below is the front cover of the programme for the game. Get your copy at Mariners Park for £2.
Included inside are interviews with Martin Scott and Jeff Stelling, columns from Lee Picton and Julio Arca, a team-mates feature with Jon Shaw, a look at some of Hartlepool United’s most memorable moments through the medium of programme front covers, a history focus with Bob Wray, Geoff Main’s weekly column and all of the usual features and stats.