By Daniel Prince
South Shields kick off their calendar year with a trip to Thornaby tomorrow (Saturday) in Ebac Northern League Division Two.
Shields’ biggest win of the season came against Thornaby in August, when the Mariners ran out 6-0 winners at Peterlee.
Much has changed with Thornaby since then, though, and they now sit an impressive ninth in the table, nine points above 16th-placed Shields.
Jon King’s side go into the game on the back of last week’s narrow 1-0 loss to Hebburn Town, and the manager is urging his team to bounce back tomorrow.
King said: “We were disappointed to lose the derby against Hebburn last week, but I thought overall we deserved at least a point.
“We put them under a lot of pressure, but they withstood it, and you can see why they are up there.
“They left with a win and a clean sheet, so credit to them, but overall I thought we were the better team, so it was a bitter pill to swallow to lose the game.
“We need to try and bounce back from that disappointment against Thornaby, and it’s going to be a difficult game.
“Thornaby have picked up of late and are in the top half. I think they have received some backing recently, and they have brought in some good First Division players from down in the Stockton area.
“It will be tough, but if we’re on our game, we do things right and we have a little bit more quality in front of goal, we’re a match for anybody on our day.”
Lee Maitland returned for Shields against Hebburn after serving his suspension, and came on as a first half substitute.
His performance impressed King, who was also happy to welcome back a number of other players.
He added: “Lee was fantastic last week – he came on and changed everything for us. He gave us a big threat.
“He’s big, he’s strong, he’s powerful, he has got a bit of pace, and I thought he was the best player on the park for the time he was on.
“I thought David Molloy was fantastic in the first half. He really put himself about, he was aggressive, he was strong and his hold-up play was good.
“You could see he tired towards the end, but it was fantastic to have him, Lee Maitland and Aron Burn back. We’ll hopefully have a few more back against Thornaby.”
David Conroy and Andy Renton have returned to the club in recent weeks after a spell away from the Mariners to get match sharpness.
King said: “I thought David Conroy was fantastic against Hebburn – he came on and kept the ball really well.
“The only problem we had with David was his fitness. He actually came to us and said he wasn’t fit enough, so he’s been away with Jarrow for a while, and hopefully he’s got his fitness levels back up to where they need to be for the Northern League. There’s no doubt he keeps the ball really well.
“Andy Renton is a threat, and I said to him that at the beginning of the season, he was in our side.
“He started the first few games for a reason, because he did really well in pre-season.
“It’s great to have him back, and he’s another one who has gone away and got games, so it’s great to have both of the lads back. It just makes the squad a lot stronger, which is what we need.”
Kick-off in tomorrow’s game at Thornaby’s Teesdale Park is at 3pm. Postcode: TS17 7JU