Midfielder Julio Arca is set to return to training tonight (Tuesday) as he hands South Shields a boost ahead of an important double-header this weekend.

Arca has been visiting family in Argentina since mid-July, but is expected to be available for the games against Bamber Bridge on Saturday and Scarborough Athletic on Monday.

The former Sunderland and Middlesbrough favourite will face a battle for his place, of course, with the Mariners having started the campaign with three consecutive victories.

However, joint manager Lee Picton is delighted to have him back in the fold, just days after fellow key player Gavin Cogdon also returned from holiday.

Picton said: “We’re three games into the season and have won all three, but still feel there is much yet to come.

“We’ve still got a lot of lads in the dressing room who aren’t 100% fit yet, and that’s going to have an impact as well.

“It was really, really good to have Gavin Cogdon back in the fold on Saturday, as well as Darren Lough.

“We’ve got Mr Arca coming back this week too, which will only strengthen us again, so there is lots of competition for places.”

The weekend double-header will see Shields come up against two teams who are tipped to have a big say in the promotion race this season in EVO-STIK North.

Bamber Bridge, like the Mariners, have started their league campaign with back-to-back victories, while Scarborough have four points from their opening two games.

Picton feels the Mariners will have to utilise their squad if they are to have a chance of maintaining their 100% record.

He added: “It hasn’t been an easy start. Trafford were a tough test for us in the first game in particular, and now we’ve got Bamber Bridge and Scarborough in the space of three days.

“They’re teams who I’m sure have got aspirations of being there or thereabouts at the end of the season.

“We’re going to have to do what we did at the back end of last season and utilise the squad again across the weekend.

“We’ll give some careful consideration as to how we plan that strategy, but we’re thoroughly looking forward to it.

“We’ve got an opportunity to train twice this week, and then follow that up with two games in quick succession.”

If you’d like a place in hospitality for the game against Bamber Bridge at Mariners Park, please call 0191 454 7800.

Tickets also remain available for the trip to Scarborough on Monday. Please dial the same number, or visit Mariners Park, if you would like any.

The Mariners have been allocated 500 tickets for the EVO-STIK North trip to Scarborough Athletic on Monday, August 28.

Tickets are priced at £10 for adults, £5 for Under-17s and OAPs and free for Under-11s who are attending with a paying adult (though they will still need a ticket).

Tickets will firstly go on sale to SSFC season ticket holders and sponsors between 10.30am and 9pm on Monday, August 14. Sales will be limited to one per season ticket holder until Wednesday, August 16.

Subject to availability, the tickets will then also be opened up to those in the Members’ Club, as well as SSFC team members and coaches, between 9am and 5pm on Tuesday.

Any remaining tickets will go on general sale from 9am on Wednesday.

Tickets can be bought by visiting Mariners Park or calling the club on 0191 454 7800.

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IMAGE: Kev Wilson.

South Shields have been handed a trip to Scarborough Athletic in their first Buildbase FA Trophy game since the club was reformed in 1974.

The preliminary round tie will take place at Scarborough’s Flamingo Land Stadium on Saturday, October 7. Scarborough will be one of the Mariners’ opponents in the Evo-Stik League North this season.

The match will be the first time a South Shields team has competed in the FA Trophy since the 1973-74 season, when they were beaten by Morecambe in a two-legged semi-final. It was the former club’s final season before relocating to Gateshead and becoming Gateshead United.

The winners of the preliminary round tie will travel to Farsley Celtic in the first round of qualifying, which will take place on Saturday, October 28. Farsley Celtic finished second in the Evo-Stik League North last season, and were promoted via the play-offs.

Meanwhile, in the Emirates FA Cup, the Mariners will enter in the preliminary round following last season’s promotion from the Northern League. Their opponents will be Bridlington Town or Billingham Synthonia at Mariners Park on Saturday, August 19.

Bridlington compete in the Northern Counties East Football League Premier Division – which was won by Cleethorpes Town last season. They finished third last time out.

Billingham Synthonia, meanwhile, need little introduction to Shields fans, having competed against the Mariners in Northern League Division Two two seasons ago. They won promotion to Division One last term.

The Mariners will also again be represented in the FA Youth Cup this season. They have been handed a bye in the preliminary round, and a home tie against Chester-le-Street Town in the first round of qualifying. The match will take place at Mariners Park in the week commencing Monday, September 18.