While a doubleheader like this is pretty rare, it makes a lot of sense really – we can get more minutes into more players’ legs, and the squad will be on level footing match fitness-wise as we head into the middle of pre-season. With two games to look forward to, we’ll likely split the squads with each having a good dose of youth and experience.
We know that Jenson Seelt, Aji Alese, Dennis Cirkin, Ross Stewart, Corry Evans and Elliot Embleton are out injured, while Trai Hume may sit this week out too after international duty.
Thanks to a leaked squad on social media, we know which players are headed to Shields, which gives us at least a sporting chance of getting close to the teams that will line up!
So, first up our 12.30pm kick off at South Shields...
Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson
Patto’s in the squad for this fixture and will line up in goal. I still maintain we need back up/competition for him, and hope we’ll be in the market for a new keeper to cover him if necessary.
Defenders: Lynden Gooch, Luke O’Nien, Ben Crompton, Ellis Taylor
In defence, it looks like we’ll have Gooch and Ellis Taylor at full back with O’Nien and young Ben Crompton in the centre of defence. It’s a big season for Taylor – he’s been on the fringes for a while now, and with his loan move at Hartlepool not working out due to the manager not being able to figure out his best position, it could be a pivotal pre season for him. Alongside O’Nien, Crompton is highly rated and it’ll be interesting to see how the club plans to develop him this season.
Midfield: Pierre Ekwah, Jay Matete
Ekwah’s form in the latter stages of the season was likely a huge contributing factor in us not pursuing the signature of Michut, and he’s someone I’m particularly looking forward to watching this season. Alongside him will be Jay Matete – he’s another player I really like, and I feel he’s been written off by some far too prematurely. We really could have done with him last season, and with Corry Evans out long-term, Matete’s got an opportunity to stake a claim for that defensive midfield spot.
Attacking midfield: Isaac Lihadji, Abdoullah Ba, Jack Clarke
There’s a large Amad shaped hole in our attack, and to my mind we have two players competing for that spot – Lihadji and Ba. Both will get a game at Shields, and with Jack Clarke thankfully still here, it’s a strong attack to face the Mariners.
Striker: Luis Semedo
Another player I’m looking forward to seeing in action – Semedo looks, physically at least, as good cover for Ross Stewart, and it’ll be interesting to see just how ready he looks for championship football today.
After that, it’s off to Gateshead for a 4pm kick off. Here’s who might line up in that one!
Goalkeeper: Alex Bass
Bass is likely to get a run out at Gateshead today. He’s not had much opportunity to shine so far, and needs to keep Patterson on his toes.
Defence: Niall Huggins, Danny Batth, Dan Ballard, Joe Anderson
This defence is far stronger than we had for the last quarter of the season, and it’ll be good to see Batth and Ballard back in action. So too Niall Huggins – this could be a major season for him if he can maintain his fitness, and he’s like having that proverbial ‘new signing’. Joe Anderson is another I’m interested in seeing perform – I thought he was harshly treated last season, and looked decent whenever he had a chance.
Midfield: Dan Neil, Jobe Bellingham
In midfield it looks like we’ll see Dan Neil and Jobe Bellingham. Mowbray seems to like Neil a lot, so it looks like a battle between Ekwah and Bellingham for the right to partner Neil at this point.
Attacking midfield: Patrick Roberts, Alex Pritchard, Jewison Bennette
Another good lineup here – I’d say, even with the loss of Amad, it’s probably our strongest area in the squad. We all know what Roberts and Pritchard can bring, and Jewi is a fantastic prospect in my view. His season was curtailed last time out through injury, but I’m expecting him to really make an impact this year.
Striker: Harry Gardiner
The wildcard selection – although given how we played last year it’d be no surprise if we went with another midfielder. However, I don’t see what’s to lose by giving Gardiner a run out, and I hope we get to see him in action. The club extended his contract so must see potential, and given he’s 20 in September, they have surely done that with the intention of him competing for the first team.