Young Mariners ready for exciting Hartlepool United test
South Shields are bidding to book a place in the third round of the FA Youth Cup for the first time on Friday when they take on Hartlepool United at Mariners Park.
The winners of the tie will face the tantalising prospect of a trip to Fulham in round three, with Shields looking to go one better than last season, when they were beaten at this stage by Lincoln City.
The young Mariners have enjoyed another tremendous run in the competition, seeing off Gateshead, Carlisle City, North Shields, Harrogate Town and Morecambe so far.
They are now expecting their most difficult test yet with so much at stake. This match was originally due to be held last Friday, only to be postponed because of a waterlogged pitch.
Jon Shaw and Wess Brown’s side have performed admirably so far this season and are now hoping for another bumper crowd at Mariners Park for the youngsters’ biggest match to date.
Academy and Recruitment Manager Brown said: “From our perspective it is great to come up against a local Academy and we know quite a few of their players, so it makes for an interesting game.
“We believe this will be a pretty similar match to the one we experienced in the first round against Morecambe.
“We will continue to play the South Shields way and the lads are on a high at the moment, with some of them getting opportunities to train and play with the first-team, and the performances across both leagues and cup competitions having been good.
“We’ve watched a bit of Hartlepool and expect them to be less direct than Morecambe were.
“We also expect them to bring a decent following, and hopefully we will get another huge backing ourselves, which gives the lads the extra push they need sometimes.
“The value of that support was proved in the last round against Morecambe when the crowd really drove the players on to get the last minute winner.
“It just shows what a community club we are becoming when we can attract that amount of supporters to a youth team game.
“There are a lot of clubs playing further up the pyramid that can’t attract crowds like this to youth games so we are hugely appreciative of the support we receive.”
Striker Sam Hodgson is expected to captain Shields in Friday’s match.
Hodgson has scored 12 goals in 10 appearances across two seasons in the FA Youth Cup, and is raring to go.
He said: “We’re expecting a difficult game.
“We know quite a bit about each other already and I’m sure it will be an entertaining match for everyone who comes along.
“This is a great bunch of lads to be a part of and if I’m chosen to captain the side again, it will be an honour.
“It’s one of the best changing rooms I’ve been in and the togetherness is great between both the first years and the second years.
“If there’s ever a time we can tell someone is nervous someone is always there to put their arm around them and calm them down.
“At the end of the day, it’s just another game of football and that’s the way we’ve got to approach it.
“Because of the way things have worked out we know that the winner of tonight’s game will travel to Fulham in the next round, but we can’t get carried away by that.
“This match will be difficult enough and if we can get through it, that’s the time we’ll be able to think about Fulham.”
Kick-off at Mariners Park is at 7pm and admission prices are £3 for adults and £1 for concessions.