Joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton spoke about the future of a number of players at Thursday’s question and answer session with South Shields supporters at Mariners Park – and revealed goalkeeper Craig Turns had agreed a return to the club.
Picton and Fenton chatted with fans for one hour and 45 minutes at the Members’ Club event.
The pair discussed the future of a number of players.
Fenton said: “Darren Holden has left the football club for the foreseeable future.
“We felt it was only right – as well as he did for us when he got his opportunities last season – to let him go and allow him to play more regularly.
“We felt that he might not get as many opportunities as he’d like next season, and had to be honest with him.
“It’s the same with Iulian Petrache. Before he joined us, he had been used to being in a full-time environment with all of his clubs, and he wants to get back to that so is exploring his options.
“We can’t provide him with a full-time training environment to get him back as sharp as he would like.
“Louis Storey will be with us next season. He suffered a bad leg break last season and did extremely well to get back to the level he did towards the end of the campaign.
“We’re hoping that he’ll have a strong off-season, then a really good pre-season to get as sharp and fit as possible, and then hopefully be pushing to get into the team.
“Jordan Blinco will do pre-season with us. He will be with us to see what levels he can get to.
“He joined us towards the end of last season and did well when he had his opportunities. We were delighted with him.
“He has had that real setback of being released from a Premier League club. Lads often find it difficult to get over that.
“He has got his head around the fact he might be playing at this level, and hopefully we can benefit from his services next season.”
Picton said: “With Jordan Blinco and Louis Storey, as well as Craig Turns, who we’ve brought in as a back-up goalkeeper to Liam Connell, we’ll start pre-season with 19 players, which is two or three less than we ended last season with.
“We’ve brought in Craig because we felt a little bit exposed at times last season having just one genuine goalkeeper in Liam. It was always on our agenda to bring in a second goalkeeper
“The one player that hasn’t been mentioned so far is Stephen Ramsey.
“His leg is still in quite a bad way after he broke it towards the end of last season.
“We’ve had a conversation with him and his first priority is to get himself fit and then to try and work his way back into the first-team fold.
“We’ve kept that one open with Stephen.
“He has been part of this club for such a long time and deserves more than anyone else to be able to fight for his place in the squad, so that will happen.”
A full transcript from the Q&A will be published on the club website on Monday.
Northern League champions South Shields capped off a superb league campaign as they won 3-2 at Guisborough Town on Saturday.
The Mariners lifted the league trophy after the game, which they won thanks to goals from Jordan Blinco, Barrie Smith and Carl Finnigan.
Despite a host of changes being made to the starting line-up, that didn’t seem to affect Shields as they ended the season on 108 points and set themselves up nicely for three cup finals.
For Guisborough, meanwhile, the defeat meant relegation to Northern League Division Two, barring a reprieve should only two teams be relegated as a result of the Mariners’ promotion.
However Saturday’s game went, a party atmosphere was a certainty as an estimated 750 travelling supporters descended on Guisborough, just four days after the Mariners had sealed the title.
For once, the result was not paramount, but with places in the team for the Durham Challenge Cup, League Cup and FA Vase finals up for grabs, there was never any danger of Shields taking their foot off the gas.
A line-up showing eight changes from the team which beat Ashington on Tuesday took just 100 seconds to take the lead.
Harrison Scott, making his debut at right-back, did well on the flank before playing the ball into the feet of Blinco. His lay-off was intercepted by home defender Matthew Lovatt, but the ball broke back to him and his first-time effort from 20 yards found its way under home goalkeeper James Dawson.
With Guisborough battling to avoid relegation, Shields’ early goal was never likely to kill their threat or desire, and they showed good spirit to force their way back into the game.
Ben Hugill had their first sight of goal, but his shot from the edge of the box was easily held by Pete Jameson.
Jameson was beaten on 14 minutes, though, as Guisborough equalised. A ball was floated in from the left by David Onions and the dangerous Steven Roberts nipped in behind to nudge the ball home.
On the rare occasions Shields have suffered adversity this season, they have generally responded swiftly, so it should have been no surprise to see them retake the lead less than three minutes later.
Anthony Callaghan brought the ball forward from the left and played it to Blinco, who showed good strength to hold off his marker before breaking free and finding Smith in space. The long-serving midfielder took a touch and then hammered a shot into the bottom corner from the inside-right of the box to break his duck for the season.
Roberts always looked the home side’s biggest threat, and he tested Jameson with a free-kick which had to be tipped over.
Shields became more and more dominant the longer the first half went on, and a number of good opportunities came and went.
Smith dragged a shot wide from 20 yards, Robert Briggs had a free-kick tipped over and then Darren Holden went the closest of all, firing an effort against the post as the Mariners tried to make their pressure count.
Blinco also went close before the break, but his low curler from outside the area went just past the post.
After half-time, things were more even as the Priorymen tried to secure Division One status.
They went close to equalising when Gary Wood found himself in space on the left of the box, but Jameson denied him with his feet.
Shields themselves almost scored when Blinco got in behind on the right and pulled the ball across the box for Finnigan, but Guisborough scrambled to safety and created a chance themselves on the counter-attack, with Louis Goldsack volleying over.
Onions also directed a decent opportunity wide, while Anthony Snook was unfortunate not to level the scores when his piledriver from 30 yards was brilliantly tipped onto the bar by Jameson.
The Mariners were having to withstand some pressure, and responded by introducing David Foley from the bench. His pace would prove to have a decisive impact.
Within five minutes of his introduction, he had burst through on the right after being found by fellow substitute Michael Richardson, and when he played the ball low into the area, Finnigan made no mistake as it became 3-1.
That all but killed off Guisborough hopes, and Shields looked likely to add to the scoring before the end of the 90 minutes.
Foley hit an effort inches wide after again getting in behind on the right, while Finnigan had a header saved from a Briggs free-kick.
The hosts did not allow their heads to drop, though, and pulled a goal back in stoppage time when Goldsack met a cross from the right with his head, and diverted it beyond the reach of Jameson.
There was no time left for Guisborough to force their way back into contention, though, and the final whistle soon went to signal the end of a hugely successful league campaign for the Mariners.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Jameson, Scott (Richardson 45+5), Callaghan, Briggs, Petrache (Lough 82), Storey, Smith (c), Holden, Finnigan, Stephenson, Blinco (Foley 71). Subs not used: Connell, Phillips.
Goals: Blinco (2), Smith (17), Finnigan (76).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields further strengthened their title hopes with a comfortable 4-0 win over Newton Aycliffe on Tuesday.
Shields enjoyed almost total control from the outset at Mariners Park – after the game was delayed by half an hour because of problems with the floodlights.
When the match finally did get underway, it took just three minutes for the Mariners to take the lead.
Michael Richardson curled in a superb free-kick delivery from the left, and Aycliffe defender Daniel Mitton could only head the ball into his own net.
After taking an early advantage, Shields never looked likely to let the visitors back into it.
Jamie Owens flashed an effort over for Aycliffe, but that was a rare opportunity.
Shields fielded a side showing seven changes from Saturday’s win at Ryhope Colliery Welfare, and one of those who kept his place was Barrie Smith in the centre of the park.
He put in an impressive performance, and sent a half volley narrowly wide as he tried to extend the Mariners’ advantage.
The second goal came in the 24th minute for Shields after a fine team move, which ended when Craig Baxter’s low ball in the box was slid home by Jordan Blinco on his home debut.
It was Blinco’s third goal for the Mariners in two games, and he almost had another when he went on a strong run before seeing his low effort tipped behind by former Shields goalkeeper James Winter.
Just more than 10 minutes before the break, the points were as good as wrapped up when Wayne Phillips’ inch-perfect cross from the right was headed in by Romanian defender Iulian Petrache.
Smith was inches away from making it 4-0 shortly before half-time, but his effort was deflected not far past the post.
The second half was a lesson in keep ball from the hosts as Aycliffe sat deep.
Richardson and David Foley both had shots saved by Winter, while the visitors were reduced to 10 men when Scott Howes received a second booking.
Shields’ dominance of the ball was even more apparent after that, and they went close a number of times in the closing stages.
Foley went the closest as he stabbed an effort narrowly wide from the edge of the box.
It looked all set to end 3-0, but with the last kick of the game, Richardson powered a low free-kick into the net to make the scoreline even more comfortable.
The Mariners are now 11 points behind North Shields at the top, and play one of their four games in hand on Thursday when they travel to Sunderland RCA.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Jameson, Baxter, Callaghan, Lough, Petrache, Arca (c) (Storey 59), Smith, Phillips, Blinco (Stephenson 68), Richardson, Foley. Subs not used: Connell, Cogdon, Morse.
Goals: Mitton own goal (3), Blinco (27), Petrache (34), Richardson (90+4).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.