FA Cup: Hartlepool United comfortable with favourites tag against South Shields

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Craig Harrison: Hartlepool United prepared for underdogs South Shields
FA Cup fourth qualifying round
Venue: Mariners Park Kick-off: 15:00 BST Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Tees, and scores on the BBC Sport app

Hartlepool United have a "healthy respect" for FA Cup giant-killers South Shields and are comfortable with being favourites, says boss Craig Harrison.

Northern Football League Division One side Shields have already accounted for higher division sides Darlington and York City in reaching this stage.

Pools, who play in the National League, face the Mariners for a place in the first round of the competition.

"We are the favourites, heavy favourites as well," Harrison said.

"But they've prepared the way we would for a National League game. We've had them watched twice and I took in the whole of their York game.

"They've got some high-profile players like Julio Arca and Matty Pattison and ex-Football League lads. I understand the dangers of them."

Getting used to being big fish

Harrison arrived at Hartlepool from Welsh football, where he had established The New Saints as a dominant force with league and cup honours bringing European football to their Oswestry ground.

It was a different scenario altogether for the Gateshead-born 39-year-old on arriving at Victoria Park, with Pools relegated from the Football League for the first time in their history.

As a former league club, Pools have gone from small fry to big fish and a target for teams hoping to claim a scalp.

"Coming into the league from the EFL, every game we're favourites," Harrison told BBC Look North.

"Where I was before at TNS we were always favourites, so it's something I'm used to as a manager. We've got to embrace it. You could be afraid every time you step out of your front door."

Rise and rise of the Mariners

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FA Cup highlights: South Shields 3-1 Bridlington Town

The South Shields story has been a rise from near oblivion to consistent success since Geoff Thompson took over as chairman in 2015, ending a nomadic spell away from Mariners Park.

Shields have had a mixed history, enjoying league status as members of the Second Division in 1919 before folding in 1930. The reincarnated outfit enjoyed numerous FA Cup outings throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s - attracting crowds in the tens of thousands.

A second folding in 1974 prompted the creation of a third club, an outfit which has existed to the present day, that has played their football at various venues across the town and across the leagues.

The 2016-17 season was the best yet for Shields, with league and cup victories in the north east finished off with an FA Vase triumph at Wembley, and their cup run this season has again attracted interest, notably from the BBC who streamed their extra preliminary round win against Bridlington online.

One of the keys to that run is former Middlesbrough and Sunderland midfielder Julio Arca, 36, who swapped the glamour of the elite leagues for life at Shields in 2015.

"People have started to take notice," Arca told BBC Tees. "Last year we won trophies and won at Wembley.

"We've got good players in there, some have played in different leagues at professional level abroad or around England.

"Realistically, you play against a team three leagues higher, you think the chances will be less than the chances before.

"But we are positive, we are confident we can get something, we're competing with a professional team, they should be fitter than us but in the cup anything can happen."

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