South Shields played their first match in 158 days as they began their pre-season programme with a 1-0 defeat to neighbours Hebburn Town on Tuesday.
The behind-closed-doors game saw Shields name two entirely different teams for the two halves as players were given an opportunity to phase their way back into match action.
As ever with pre-season the result was not paramount, and the Mariners will have been pleased with many aspects of their performance as some of the inevitable summer rust was chipped away.
Hebburn – playing their fourth friendly so far – ultimately claimed victory with a long-range strike from Robbie Spence four minutes before the end at 1st Cloud Arena.
Shields handed a first start to new signing Alex Kempster, with Academy left-back Josh Croft also in the line-up for the pre-season opener.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton’s side started with a period of sustained possession but chances were hard to come by at both end, with most of the play restricted to the middle third.
Myles Boney was called into action to make a relatively simple stop from former Shields striker Graeme Armstrong, with the goalkeeper also on hand to save an attempted chip by the same player.
At the other end, the hosts looked bright as Nathan Lowe, Jason Gilchrist, Gillies and Kempster linked up, and Gillies had a sight of goal on the half-hour mark but his effort went not far past the post.
The closest Shields came in the first half followed a loose pass by Hornets goalkeeper Mark Foden which was pounced on before Arron Thompson’s shot from the edge of the box was well blocked.
Gillies also tested Foden before the half was out while Boney denied Amar Purewal as the teams returned to the dressing room at half-time with the game goalless.
Shields introduced a new XI at the break which included Will McCamley, making his first senior appearance for the club after his return on loan from Huddersfield Town.
He was a bright spark on the left flank and had arguably Shields’ best chance to score, rounding the goalkeeper before seeing his shot blocked after some impressive play.
A trialist – brought on to play on the right – also had a good opportunity when he was played in down the right of the area but he pulled an effort narrowly wide with Foden beaten.
The Mariners were forced into a reshuffle midway through the second half as Jordan Hunter was forced off with an injury, with Croft reintroduced in his place and Blair Adams moving to an unnatural position of right-back.
Hebburn had their best spell of the game late on and rattled the crossbar with eight minutes remaining with a shot from Michael McKeown following a set-piece.
They took the lead with a terrific strike from 25 yards by Spence in the 86th minute, leaving the home side with little time to respond.
Shields did probe for an equaliser in the minutes which remained but were unable to find a way past Foden as the Hornets held onto their clean sheet and continued their unbeaten start to pre-season.
The Mariners are back in action on Friday with a fixture against West Auckland Town at 1st Cloud Arena.
South Shields (first half): Boney, Baxter, Croft, Turnbull, Morse, Verstraaten, Gillies, Thompson, Gilchrist, Lowe, Kempster.
South Shields (second half): Coombe, Hunter (Croft 67), Adams, Ross, Brown, Lockey, McCamley, Briggs, Hodgson, Jenkins, Trialist.
IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
Early bird season tickets are set to go on sale for the 2020-21 campaign as early as Tuesday. For the second year running, we are offering a price freeze on the previous season’s prices, regardless of which league we are playing in next term.
We understand the concerns of many supporters and the wider public regarding the coronavirus outbreak and from a football perspective, the associated uncertainty of when the current season will complete. Whatever the outcome, the club needs to plan its financial future and football will undoubtedly prevail once this crisis is over.
We would encourage fans to support us at this time because any season ticket sales will have a materially positive effect on cash flow at the club in the short-term during this difficult period.
If you already have an online account with us, look out for a personal invitation which will arrive in your email inbox tomorrow morning ahead of the season tickets being available at 10am. They will be available to buy online 24 hours a day and in person until 5pm.
Those looking to take advantage of the early bird deal must sign up before Friday, May 1.
Below are our early bird prices for those making a one-off payment.
Entry only – Adults £170, Concessions/Students £135, Under-16s £35
Balcony (limited to 100 people) – Adults £210, Concessions/Students £165, Under-16s £65
Seat in stand (limited to 115 people) – Adults £230, Concessions/Students £185, Under-16s £100
If you are an existing season ticket holder with a seat, your seat will be reserved for you until Friday, April 17 before being offered on general sale if not renewed. Similarly, only a select number of balcony places will be made available on general sale until April 17 to ensure all current balcony season ticket holders have the chance to secure their place.
Should promotion to National League North be achieved this season, the pricing structure will be reviewed and we can confirm that beyond May 1, adult prices would increase to £199 for entry only, £239 for the balcony and £259 for a seat in the stand.
The club is proposing to offer a Direct Debit scheme for those who would prefer to pay for their season tickets in installments. Further details will be released imminently and if this scheme does not come to fruition, there will instead be a repeat of the standing order scheme which was implemented this season. This situation will be clarified well in advance of May 1.
Thank you for your continued support,
All Northern Premier League fixtures have been suspended with immediate effect due to the escalating Covid-19 outbreak.
No potential return date has yet been set by the league.
The news means Tuesday’s game between South Shields and Morpeth Town at Mariners Park has been postponed, with no rearranged date set.
In the meantime, the club will continue to make tickets for upcoming matches available to buy online and they will be valid for any rearranged dates.
A statement from the league said: “The Northern Premier League has today decided, reluctantly, to suspend all fixtures until further notice in light of the escalating Covid-19 outbreak.