Blyth Spartans 2-2 South Shields: Mariners come from two down
South Shields launched a second half fightback as they kept their unbeaten pre-season record intact with a 2-2 draw at Blyth Spartans on Saturday.
The Mariners found themselves two goals down at half-time before a dramatic improvement after the break.
Eight changes were made during the interval by joint managers Graham Fenton and Lee Picton, and the reaction was immediate, with Shields pulling one goal back through a trialist.
Carl Finnigan netted a penalty to equalise late on as the Mariners claimed a draw with their National League North opponents.
Against a full-strength Blyth side – who operate two leagues higher – Shields went into the game without the likes of Julio Arca, Liam Connell, Robert Briggs and Matty Pattison.
They started slowly, with Spartans having a number of half-chances in the opening exchanges.
Dan Maguire hit a decent opportunity wide and Nathan Buddle also missed a good chance for the hosts as he was unable to get enough on a header in front of goal.
The breakthrough Blyth had been threatening duly arrived in the 19th minute as a through ball split the Shields defence and let Maguire in on goal.
The deadly marksman made no mistake as he rolled the ball past the Mariners’ trialist goalkeeper.
Things did not get much better for Shields in the rest of the first half as they failed to test Shaun MacDonald in the Spartans goal.
A dangerous strike from distance by Blyth forward Robbie Dale took a deflection before going narrowly wide, while a Dale Hopson free-kick caused problems before being scrambled to safety.
Spartans doubled their advantage eight minutes before half-time when Maguire was again slipped through on goal, and he drove the ball low across the goalkeeper and into the corner of the net.
It looked like a tall order for Shields to find a way back into the game, but they were much-improved after the introduction of Finnigan, Barrie Smith, Jordan Blinco, Anthony Callaghan and four trialists.
They put the hosts under pressure before pulling a goal back just before the hour mark when Blinco’s pass was expertly fired into the bottom corner by a trialist.
Shields had momentum for the first time in the game, with Finnigan pulling the strings.
He set Blinco through on goal soon after, but MacDonald denied him.
Blyth still had chances, and hit the post when a free-kick was flicked on, but Shields were awarded a penalty for handball with 13 minutes left.
Finnigan made no mistake as he rattled the ball into the bottom corner to continue his fine pre-season form.
Jarrett Rivers could have won it for Blyth in stoppage time, but blazed over from close range as Shields returned to South Tyneside with a draw.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Trialist (Trialist 46), Baxter (Nicholson 78), Lough, Storey (Trialist 46), Morse (Callaghan 46), Shaw (Morse 78), Nicholson (Smith 46), Stephenson (Trialist 46), Cogdon (Trialist 46), Richardson (Finnigan 46), Sullivan (Blinco 46).
Goals: Trialist (59), Finnigan (pen 77).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.