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Match Preview: South Shields vs Alfreton Town

South Shields make their debut as a Vanarama National League North club on Saturday when they take on Alfreton Town at 1st Cloud Arena (3pm kick-off).

The Mariners were promoted to the sixth tier for the first time last season and are expecting a stern test against a side which reached the play-offs last time out.

Six players could make their competitive debuts for Shields in the match, with John Lufudu, Luke James, Paul Blackett, Lirak Hasani, Aaron Martin and Jed Abbey having been added to the squad during the summer.

It is also Julio Arca's first competitive game in charge of the Mariners since taking on his first role in management during the off-season.

Julio's thoughts

Arca feels Saturday's match will provide Shields with a good benchmark of where they are at.

He said: "This is a historic moment for the club and we’re determined to do all we can to make it a positive day on and off the pitch.

“It’s going to be a very difficult game, though, because Alfreton are good at what they do and are likely to play a different style of football to us.

“We expect to come up against a direct team with players who can hold the ball up well, and they will be a threat from set-pieces and long throws.

“Alfreton qualified for the play-offs last season, so this match will provide us with lots of information on where we are.

“It’s a big test but we’ve got a good team ourselves and we prepared well this week for the challenge ahead.

“What better way would there be for us to start life in this league than with a win against a very strong team at this level? That’s the objective, however difficult it will be.”

Arca is pleased with the competition for places in his squad heading into the season opener.

He added: “Some of our players in our squad have played in this league before, and some haven’t.

“It’s a fresh start for everyone to prove that they can play and do a very good job at this level.

“We all know how difficult and competitive this league will be, and we have a long season ahead, which is why we are going to need 18 or 19 players pushing each other throughout.

“We’re excited about the challenge and want our team to be very competitive.

“It’s not just about getting into the league and seeing what happens. We want to approach every game with a winning mentality.”

Team news

Arca is hoping to have an almost full-strength squad to select from in Saturday’s match.

Midfielder Michael Woods is back in full training, but this game could come too soon for him as he builds up his fitness levels.

Information for supporters

Kick-off at 1st Cloud Arena is at 3pm and the turnstiles will open at 12.30pm.

Tickets are available to purchase until 12pm on Saturday by clicking here, with online tickets priced at £14 for adults, £9 for students and over-65s, £5 for children aged 13 to 16 and £3 for children aged 12 and under. There is an additional £2 charge to sit.

Tickets are available to purchase at the turnstiles on matchday, when standing prices will increase to £15 for adults and £10 for students and over-65s. Cash and card will be accepted.

There is no segregation in place for this fixture.

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