NORTH Shields Football Club have issued a rallying call to the townsfolk as they embark upon a testing set of fixtures which could ultimately determine their end of season fortunes.
Crowds have been up at the Daren Persson Stadium at Ralph Gardner Park, particularly for midweek games, the numbers of travelling supporters is impressive and the vocals of the Red Ultras are legendary.
However, with the club now possessing their most talented and committed set of players for some time, the club feels this is the moment the town needs to give the Robins that extra encouragement as they strive for promotion.
Club skipper Keith Douglas, pictured, was last season’s Golden Boot winner and has just notched his 50th goal for the side.
“After a slow start we’ve now assembled a great squad,” he said.
“Yet another postponement has taken its toll and we’ve now got five and six games in hand of three of our title rivals.
“Under coach Andy Bowman and overseen by team boss Anthony Woodhouse though, training sessions have been intense and the lads are raring to return to 90 minutes match action.
“It’s going to be a hectic run-in as, starting at Hebburn in midweek, we still have 17 league games to play including every side in the top half of the table.
“The recent defeat at Washington which ended our long unbeaten away run and was immensely disappointing, but it’s been subsequently turned into a positive as we were forced to re-assess and we bounced back superbly with that cup win at Hebburn.
“All the players in the squad could justifiably claim a place in the starting 11, so obviously selection is a tough call for Woody and Bowsa.
“I know we were going well last season then suffered that dip in form just at the wrong time, but we’ve brought in quality performers now who have the right character and ability.
“All of us are focused as we try to reach the first division/
“This club has a fantastic history – it’s the only side from the county to lift the prestigious FA Amateur Cup – so let’s hope for a successful campaign and we can give our supporters plenty more to shout about.”
Coming up on Saturday is the visit of league leaders Team Northumbria, kick-off 3pm at Daren Persson Stadium.
Team Northumbria, beaten 1-0 by the Robins at Coach Lane back in September when Paul Dunn scored on his debut, currently are 16 points in front of Woodhouse’s men, who have six games in hand.
Last season Shields completed a ‘double’ over the Students when Andy Hay and Michael Pattison netted in a 2-1 away success, then James Luccock notched the winner as the Robins triumphed 1-0 at home.
Encounters with Crook Town are always feisty and the County Durham outfit are now scheduled to travel to Tyneside on Wednesday, February 22, for a 7.30pm kick-off.
Douglas notched the winner at Millfield earlier this season whilst the Shieldsmen enjoyed a 5-2 romp in a Northern League Cup tie last year (Mark Rasmussen, two, Andy Bowman, two, Douglas) but dropped league points in a dour 0-1 verdict during the run-in.
With James Harmison an injury doubt ,Woodhouse will choose from: Michael Robinson, Kevin Hughes, Danny Patterson, Paul Dunn, Danny Bowlt, Paul Watson, Mark Rasmussen, Gareth McAlindon, Dean Holmes, Andy Hay, Keith Douglas, Andy Wright, Robbie Livermore, Neil Baistow, James Luccock, Paul Gordon, Scott Blandford, John Grey plus new acquisition, Adam Rowntree.