Joint manager Lee Picton says his South Shields players must show ‘courage’ to end their poor away run in front of a large Mariners following at Whitby Town on Saturday.
The Mariners are set to be backed by hundreds of supporters at the Turnbull Ground, with five coaches having sold out and many more fans planning to make their own way to the game.
Shields have lost six or their eight away fixtures in the Evo-Stik Premier Division so far – including their last four – but are still handily placed in sixth.
They recognise the need to reverse their away form, starting with tomorrow’s eagerly-awaited trip to the seaside.
Picton said: “We’re really looking forward to the game, because certain things are just starting to click into place.
“This is the acid test for us now.
“The disparity between our away form and home form has been talked about a lot, and now we’ve got to treat it like any other game of football, and just go and do our thing.
“Whitby will be there to try to stop us doing our thing and to do their thing, but we’ve got to have the courage and the quality to go and impose our game on them.
“We’re massively looking forward to it because it feels like we’ve got a little bit of momentum now and we’ve got to do everything within our powers to make sure we continue that.”
Shields have won each of their last three games in all competitions – all at home – and scored 16 goals in the process.
It is their home form which has kept them in contention in the league, with Shields having won six out of six at Mariners Park.
Picton insists it is now time to start repaying the club’s superb away following.
He added: “We’re massively fortunate to have this level of support and it’s clear our fanbase is very excited about this game.
“I know everyone within our camp is desperate to give those fans that travel that distance to come and watch us what they deserve.
“We’ll be doing everything in our powers to pick up three points.”
Shields are one point and three places above Whitby going into Saturday’s match, having played two games less.
The Mariners are without the suspended Carl Finnigan as well as injured trio Gavin Cogdon, Barrie Smith and Anthony Callaghan.
Kick-off at the Turnbull Ground – which has a post code of YO21 3HZ – is at 3pm, and admission prices are £10 for adults, £6 for concessions and £3 for children.
South Shields ended pre-season in positive fashion with a deserved 2-1 win at Whitby Town on Saturday.
First half goals from summer signings Jamie Holmes and Luke Sullivan were enough for the Mariners against their EVO-STIK Premier Division opponents.
The goals were split by an equaliser from former Shields midfielder David Carson for the hosts.
The Mariners deserved their win, though, and now have a week to prepare for their EVO-STIK North opener at Trafford.
They will go into that game in confident mood after a pre-season which saw them defeat two sides from higher levels – FC United of Manchester and Whitby – as well as draw with Gateshead and Blyth Spartans, both National League outfits.
Saturday’s performance was one of their best of pre-season, as they got the better of a side which narrowly missed out on the play-offs last term.
Sullivan had the ball in the net twice in the first 12 minutes as he searched for his first goal in Shields colours, but twice he was denied by the assistant referee’s flag for offsides earlier in the moves.
The Mariners broke the deadlock in the 13th minute through Holmes, who had signed his contract to join the club less than an hour earlier.
Matty Pattison fed Alex Nicholson on the right and he drove inside before his impressive ball through was met with an equally superb run by Holmes towards the inside-right of the box. He clipped the ball beyond home goalkeeper Shane Bland and it kissed the post before nestling in the net.
It took just three minutes for Whitby to get back on level terms. Carson angled a free-kick from just outside the box into the bottom corner, with Shields goalkeeper Liam Connell unsighted by a Whitby player at the end of the wall.
Both teams had decent spells and opportunities, the best of which fell the way of Holmes after a good ball through by Sullivan. This time, though, Bland was equal to it as he pushed it to safety.
Connell was solid between the sticks for the Mariners and kept out two efforts from Michael Roberts, who also volleyed wide after good play down the right from Carson.
Shields came on strong, and should have taken the lead when the ball ricocheted into the path of Michael Richardson in the penalty area, but he snatched at his shot and it flew over.
Less than a minute later, the Mariners were awarded a penalty when a desperate challenge by a home defender saw Pattison brought down in the area.
With Carl Finnigan unavailable, Sullivan took responsibility for the spot-kick, and gave Bland no chance as he rattled his effort to the goalkeeper’s left and found the corner.
Jon Shaw headed a decent opportunity over from a Pattison corner, while Sullivan had a shot from distance deflected wide as the away side searched for a third.
They almost got it when Robert Briggs unlocked the Whitby defence with a brilliant pass through for Nicholson, but although he got there first, Bland managed to get a touch in it, pushing the ball against the legs of the Shields man before it trickled out for a goal kick.
Pattison had a better opportunity a minute before half-time, but was unable to get clean contact on it as the Blues survived.
Shields were not at quite the same level as the second half progressed and legs tired, but were still well worth their victory.
Chances were few and far between after the break, with Whitby having the better of them. One of them looked set to fall the way of Matthew Tymon after a mistake from Shaw, but he rectified his error by racing back and making a potentially goal-saving tackle.
The best opportunity of the half fell to Tymon after he was picked out by a superb Danny McWilliams cross, but he could only head wide.
Shields saw out the game to claim a 2-1 victory, and although results matter little in pre-season, they will go to Trafford full of confidence.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell (Trialist 56), Baxter, Lough (Trialist 73), Shaw (c), Morse (Callaghan 56), Briggs (Storey 46), Nicholson (Stephenson 52), Pattison (Richardson 84), Holmes, Richardson (Trialist 73), Sullivan.
Goals: Holmes (13), Sullivan (pen 28).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
The Mariners will complete their pre-season programme on Saturday when they take a trip to the seaside to take on Whitby Town.
The Mariners have won one, lost one and drawn three of their friendlies so far this summer.
Saturday’s game is a repeat of last year’s pre-season fixture between the sides, which Shields deservedly won 1-0.
Both teams went on to have impressive campaigns, with the Mariners winning promotion and four trophies, while Whitby finished just outside the play-offs in the EVO-STIK Premier Division.
Among the Blues’ ranks is former Shields midfielder David Carson, and they will be looking to push on this season to mount another promotion bid.
Mariners joint manager Lee Picton is confident it will be another strong test for his side as they complete their preparations for next Saturday’s EVO-STIK North opener at Trafford.
He said: “We went to Whitby last pre-season and it was a tough test for us.
“They had a really good, positive season and just missed out on the play-offs.
“I’m sure it will be a very difficult test for us again.”
Shields go into the game having suffered their first defeat of pre-season on Wednesday, going down 3-1 to a Sunderland AFC XI at Mariners Park.
Despite the result, Picton was pleased with many aspects of the Mariners’ performance.
He added: “I was really impressed with the Sunderland side. They’ve obviously got some very talented young players.
“They tested us in lots of ways, and I’d say that was definitely our toughest test so far in pre-season.
“I was really pleased, and so was Graham, with a lot of aspects of Wednesday’s performance.
“We had talked about a few things since the game four days earlier against Blyth Spartans, and I thought the lads responded really well to some of the things we talked about and worked on.”
Shields will be without Julio Arca and Gavin Cogdon (holiday commitments) for the match at Whitby, while Jordan Blinco is expected to miss out with the injury he sustained in the first half of the Sunderland friendly.
Please note the earlier than usual kick-off time of 1pm. Admission is £6 for adults, £3 for concessions and £2 for under-18s, while under-16s are free with a paying adult.
The post code of the ground is YO21 3HZ. We would hugely appreciate your support.