Shields set to face Scunthorpe in enticing FA Cup clash
Written by Jack Edward Harrison on 15th October 2022
South Shields will face National League outfit Scunthorpe United in the fourth qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup in an all-claret and blue affair.
Victory would see Shields reach the first round of the FA Cup, a feat they achieved in the 2020/21 season where they were defeated by League One side Cheltenham Town.
The two sides have only met twice previously, with the matches being played within the space of nine days in an FA Cup tie in 1971. Both games were not shy of goals, with an initial 3-3 draw being followed by a 2-3 victory for The Mariners in the replay.
A similar outcome in the upcoming tie would be welcomed by Shields fans, and the players will be hoping that they can write another chapter in the club’s FA Cup story by reaching the first round for the second time in the last three seasons.
South Shields enjoyed their best FA Cup runs back in the 1925/26 and 1926/27, reaching the fifth round in consecutive seasons. Fourth qualifying round opponents Scunthorpe have never surpassed this, also reaching the fifth round on two occasions, although they have not exited the competition before the first round since 1950.
While the chances of making it that far this season are minimal, Mariners fans are in a buoyant mood after an impressive start to the season.
Despite tasting defeat for the first time this season in their most recent league game after conceding two late goals against FC United of Manchester, Kevin Phillips’ side sit four points off the top with three games in hand in the Northern Premier League, with their sights set firmly on promotion.
Their FA Cup campaign began with a 3-2 victory over Workington followed by an emphatic 0-5 win at Shildon. Shields then went on to dispatch Marske United 5-2, who were the side that ended last season’s FA Cup dream prematurely in the second qualifying round.
Since transitioning to a full-time model ahead of the 2021/22 season, Shields have built a squad that most Northern Premier League sides would envy. Players like Michael Woods, Lewis Alessandra and Gary Liddle have all played in the Football League for large spells in their careers, so The Mariners have the quality to compete with a side two divisions above.
Scunthorpe also have an abundance of Football League experience among their ranks, although they have endured a fall from grace in recent years having played in the Championship as recently as 2011. The Irons now sit 23rd in the National League, collecting just two wins from their first 13 matches after dropping out of the Football League last season, ending a 72-year run.
The contrasting form of the two sides will provide The Mariners with the belief that they can win the tie, despite being two divisions below. With the tie being at home, the fans will play their part in creating a hostile atmosphere for the visitors, providing their team with the extra energy that is often required to pull off an upset. This may lead to a nervy performance from the travelling Irons, who will fear humiliation at the hands of lower league opposition. A defeat would compound the misery amongst their supporters, and highlight the dark reality of the position in which they currently find themselves.
If Shields can advance to the First Round they could face Football League opposition yet again, which may be a sign of things to come for a club with lofty ambitions.