South Shields get their Northern Premier League Premier Division campaign underway with a trip to newly-promoted Radcliffe on Saturday.
The Mariners finished second in the division last year and have been bolstered by the arrivals of the likes of Adam Thurston, Jason Gilchrist, Millenic Alli, Robinson Wokoma and Myles Boney during the off season.
They will be looking to get off to a strong start against a Radcliffe team which has momentum, having achieved promotion last season.
Shields joint manager Graham Fenton insists his side is in for a tough opening fixture.
He said: “Radcliffe are going to be well-organised.
“We know the lads there and it will be a tough game.
“We’ve come up with a gameplan to try to win the game, but we’re going to need the same attributes we showed last Saturday at Ossett in terms of our style when needed, particularly away from home, and when we get our opportunities to play use them.”
Shields ended their pre-season programme with an impressive 5-0 win at Ossett United last Saturday.
They head into the Radcliffe game in fine goalscoring form, having scored 13 goals in their last three matches, with seven of those notched by Gilchrist.
Fenton wants to see his team replicate the kind of performance they showed at Ossett as they bid to make a flying start to their league campaign.
He added: “It was a really satisfying way to end pre-season.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work behind the scenes on values and what it takes to be a well-regarded South Shields player.
“We thought the lads did ever so well in that regard last Saturday.
“We were scratching around for a bit of form in pre-season and injuries didn’t help, but as a group we’ve all been working hard behind the scenes to try to get it as close as possible to our top levels, and we hit that on Saturday.”
Shields are hoping to welcome back a number of players for the 3pm kick-off, including captain Jon Shaw, Phil Turnbull and Lee Mason. Craig Baxter continues to miss out as he recovers from a hernia operation.
The teams last met in the 2017-18 season in the Northern Premier League North Division.
Radcliffe held Shields to a 0-0 draw at Mariners Park but the Mariners turned on the style in the reverse fixture, winning 4-0 as they sealed the league title.
Radcliffe play at Neuven Stadium, based on Colshaw Close, which has a post code of M26 3PE.
South Shields secured a third successive league championship in style as they won 4-0 at Radcliffe to wrap up the Evo-Stik North Division title with two games to spare.
The Mariners moved onto an unassailable total of 97 points with a composed performance in difficult conditions at Stainton Park.
Gavin Cogdon headed them into the lead midway through the first half, and Michael Richardson doubled the advantage shortly after the hosts had been reduced to 10 men in the second period.
Darren Lough’s dismissal for two bookings soon after left both teams a man light, and although Radcliffe enjoyed a decent spell, Shields held firm and put their foot on the accelerator in the closing stages as substitute Graeme Armstrong scored a brace.
It was another superb win in a season which has been full of them as the Mariners were able to enjoy and celebrate another terrific achievement.
Their victory at Radcliffe was rarely in doubt, although the game itself was in question beforehand after heavy rain left the pitch sodden.
The officials passed the surface fit to play as Shields were given the chance to wrap up the title.
Carl Finnigan was played clean through on goal for the first of them, but clipped the ball wide, and when Michael Richardson was presented with a similar chance soon after, he was denied by a low save from home goalkeeper Connor Keane.
Gavin Cogdon was the next to go close, hammering an effort against a defender and then the crossbar as the Mariners continued to pressurise their opponents.
A number of further half-chances also came and went before Cogdon opened the scoring midway through the first half.
Finnigan sent in a terrific cross from the right and Cogdon stooped low to head it home and get the party started.
Shields – already assured of promotion – were unable to add to their tally before half-time, and saw their chances boosted two minutes into the second half when Radcliffe’s Rick Smith was given a straight red card for a poor challenge on Cogdon.
Cogdon and Robert Briggs both went close to extending the Mariners’ advantage.
But it was Richardson who would add their second as he controlled a Craig Baxter ball forward before brilliantly picking out the bottom corner from 20 yards.
The game turned slightly when Shields’ Darren Lough was sent off for a second yellow card 20 minutes before the end, and the hosts enjoyed their best spell.
Louis Myers hit the post and Liam Connell was forced into a number of saves as he did well to deny Jordan Boves, Myers and James Cooper.
Shields motored on again in the closing stages, and substitute Graeme Armstrong made it three when, after seeing his initial shot saved, he slid the ball home.
Armstrong was to have the final say, too, as he was played in on the right of the box before slotting it past Keane in front of the Mariners’ buoyant travelling supporters.
Shields are back in action on Thursday, with a party atmosphere sure to greet them at Mariners Park for the visit of Kendal Town.
They will complete their season with another home game, against Colne on Saturday.
The celebrations are only just beginning.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw (c), Morse, Storey, Pattison (Holmes 66), Briggs, Cogdon (Armstrong 55), Finnigan, Richardson. Subs not used: Ross, Juul, Sullivan.
Goals: Cogdon (23), Richardson (57), Armstrong (87, 90+1).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields’ wait for a game will go on after Saturday’s fixture away to Radcliffe was postponed because of a waterlogged pitch.
The Mariners have not been in action since they played host to Radcliffe on February 24.
Heavy overnight rain left the playing surface at Radcliffe’s Stainton Park unplayable, and it failed a pitch inspection on Saturday morning.
A rearranged date for the match will be confirmed in due course.