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South Shields, Scarborough Athletic: Non League sides sharing EFL aspirations

Thursday 31st August 2017
South Shields and Scarborough Athletic have long been non league nomads. Home again, both would now like to spend time in the Football League.

Recently returned to their home town after a 10-year absence, Scarborough Athletic hosted South Shields in an EVO-STIK Northern Premier League First Division North clash on Bank Holiday Monday. The visitors had also led a nomadic life in recent seasons while Mariners Park was upgraded. Both sides were aiming to enhance their promotion credentials in the contest at the North Yorkshire coastal resort.

Although Scarborough FC became a Football League team back in 1987, they eventually fell to the fifth-tier Conference, then were liquidated in 2007. Scarborough Athletic emerged from the ashes but were forced to play North Eastern Counties football at Bridlington, almost 20 miles down the Yorkshire coast.
Following much hard work on the pitch and behind the scenes, the club is leasing the new Flamingo Land Stadium, just a short walk from the town centre. With a new home, their focus is now to improve upon their promotion playoff failure in the NPL North division last term.

Now owned by a supporters trust, the Sea Dogs staged a home match against Tyneside club, South Shields, on Monday. The visitors are intent upon winning this division following promotion from the Northern League last season. Their zeal is admirable after nearly becoming insolvent during the 2014-15 campaign.

South Shields played at Filtrona Park for many years. A dispute with the owner forced the club to play home games and tenth-tier football in Peterlee, again, approximately 20 miles away.
Local businessman Geoff Thompson bought Filtrona Park in 2015, renamed the venue Mariners Park, after the club, then assumed the chairman's role. Thompson has injected sizable capital into the club, moving it back home. Along the journey, the Mariners secured an FA Vase plus two successive promotions, to claim a league position alongside Scarborough.

Despite Thompson's wish for South Shields to become self-financing, money has been made available to recruit players on decent wages, aiding aims to secure National League status in the near future.

More than 1,600 spectators watched the match on the Bank Holiday Monday. Anticipation for a competitive affair was high. Both sides were unbeaten after three league games. Although the clubs share similar backgrounds, the Mariners' overall financial strength has allowed the team to be declared firm favourites to win the league. Graham Fenton's side justified those odds in this contest.
Captained by former Sunderland and Middlesbrough standout, Julio Arca, South Shields claimed a 3-1 victory, buoyed by two goals from summer signing Luke Sullivan. Their success was helped by home winger Max Wright's dismissal for kicking the ball into the crowd during the first half, injuring a spectator. Shields were leading 2-1 at the time.

For the Mariners, winning their first four games is probably no surprise. They lost just two Northern League games last season and claimed four trophies. Automatic promotion into the EVO-STIK Premier Division is their immediate target. Few will bet against the team achieving their goal.

Promotion is also sought by Scarborough Athletic. The may achieve it via the playoffs. However, securing National League football in the long-term may be a more realistic ambition for a club lacking a rich benefactor.
John Welsh
I am a freelance sports writer specialising in football covering Premier League, EFL and English non-leagues plus top leagues in France, Germany and Italy. I have written for Inside Futbol, Football Weekends plus football previews for Hong Kong Jockey Club, and I’m also the author of book First Touch, a novel covering the exploitation of young African footballers and their experiences in Europe.

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