Willington Vase Preview
By Daniel Prince
Jon King wants his South Shields players to use a potential tie against Whitley Bay as motivation when they begin their FA Vase campaign against Willington tomorrow (Saturday).
Shields go into the tie at Peterlee in superb form, having beaten Thornaby and Tow Law Town 6-0 and 5-0 respectively over the last week.
They take a break from Ebac Northern League Division Two action this weekend, though, and will challenge a side which beat them 2-1 on the opening day of the season.
The tie falls on Non-League Day, and King feels his team “owes” Willington one after their defeat to them last month.
He said: “We’ve got a tough draw against Willington, who beat us on the first day of the season – I think we owe them one.
“We are a lot better team now than we were then.
“There is a good carrot there, because if we win we play Whitley Bay in the next round, one of my ex-teams.
“There would be a good crowd there and it’s a derby, so we need to really perform well and get a good result on Saturday so we can play them.
“We know how difficult it’s going to be against Willington, though, and we will have to be on top of our game again.”
King feels there is “no secret” behind Shields’ recent upturn in form – and insists it is all down to the work-rate of the players.
He added: “There is no secret as to why we are getting good results at the moment – it’s because the players are working so hard for each other.
“The work-rate from the first minute on Tuesday, for example, from the front two rubbed off on the others.
“Everybody is working really hard, and there’s no secret as to why they’re playing well, winning games and keeping clean sheets.”
King has a decently-sized squad this term, and has described the atmosphere in the dressing room as fantastic.
That was underlined after last weekend’s game with Thornaby, when three players were left out of the matchday squad.
They showed their commitment to the cause by playing key roles in the win over Tow Law, and their manager has heaped praise on them.
King said: “The dressing room is fantastic.
“There were three lads left out of the 16 altogether on Saturday – Abu Salim, Graham Stephenson and Andy Renton – and they showed the perfect attitude.
“It must be hugely disappointing not to be in the 16 for a game, but they were among the first three there on Tuesday, and all played a key part.
“Abu and Graham came on and worked hard for us, and Andy Renton – who has been ill and away on holiday – got a great goal to make it four.”
The manager now feels he has a settled and reliable group of players who are ready for the challenges ahead this season.
King continued: “Last season was brand new for myself and the club, with moving to Peterlee and having just been relegated.
“There was a lot of uncertainty with players signed on, and we ended up signing a lot of players to make sure we were OK.
“This season, I wanted to have a nucleus of lads who wanted to be there.
“I wanted reliable lads who would be there week-in, week-out, and we’ve got that.
“You will always have one or two players missing, but we’ve got a settled group of lads.”
Shields take on Willington from 3pm tomorrow at Peterlee’s Eden Lane in the first qualifying round of the competition.