A second half double from Gavin Cogdon was not enough for South Shields as they fell to defeat in their final pre-season outing on Saturday.
The Mariners were beaten 4-2 at Cleethorpes Town in a rematch of the 2017 FA Vase final at the Linden Club.
It was a disappointing afternoon all-round for Shields, who will be hoping for a much-improved performance in their Evo-Stik Premier Division opener against Witton Albion next Saturday.
There were some positive signs for Shields early in Saturday’s game, although the first sight of goal went to the hosts, with Danny North having a decent effort saved.
The Mariners more than matched Cleethorpes in the opening stages, though, and some good interplay between Cogdon and Robert Briggs led to a shot from the latter which went over.
Clee carried a threat throughout the game, and almost opened the scoring in the 12th minute when left-back Tom Davie fizzed a low ball across the box, only for it to just evade a vital touch.
Shields started to gather some momentum midway through the first half, with their next opportunity coming when they won possession high up the pitch and Carl Finnigan found Cogdon, who had an effort saved.
Finnigan went close himself soon after when Josh Gillies played a ball across the area, but the striker was just unable to stretch enough to force it home.
Another chance came when Craig Baxter led a counter-attack from a Cleethorpes set-piece and played it to Blair Adams, who fired over.
The hosts struck twice in three minutes late in the half to force their way into the ascendancy.
Captain Alex Flett opened the scoring when he received the ball in space 25 yards from goal and picked out the bottom corner with a fine effort.
The lead was doubled soon after when North won the ball on the right, brought it inside, rounded the goalkeeper and kept his composure to finish.
Shields were unable to fight back early in the second half, with the home side having the first attempt when a strike from Flett cleared the crossbar.
Cleethorpes were awarded a penalty in the 56th minute when Shields substitute Chris Hunter was adjudged to have fouled North in the box, and the striker picked himself up to rattle in his second goal of the game from the spot.
The Mariners almost hit back within a minute after some good work from Dan Wright on the right. He slid a ball through for Cogdon, whose shot was pushed behind by goalkeeper Dylan Parkin.
From the resulting corner, Shields pulled a goal back when the ball was half-cleared to Gillies on the right. His cross fell perfectly onto the head of Cogdon, who guided it home.
Shields tried to use that as a springboard and did have opportunities to get back in the game.
Briggs sent an audacious effort not far wide from 35 yards and Cogdon headed wide after a cross from Baxter.
The Mariners went even closer when a Gillies free-kick was deflected just past the post, but Cleethorpes recovered from that difficult spell to see out their victory.
Lewis Collins had an effort saved and Dillon Morse produced a tremendous block to deny Scott Vernon as the hosts pushed for a fourth.
They got it with six minutes left as Josh Batty thrashed home a free-kick from 20 yards to spark more home celebrations.
Shields kept fighting until the end, and went close to scoring their second when Karl Ross pulled the ball back to Max Cowburn, who curled an effort over.
Cogdon grabbed his second as the game ticked into stoppage time as he dribbled the ball around the goalkeeper before finishing well.
Shields now have two training sessions to prepare for next Saturday’s opening league game at home to Witton Albion.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Trialist, Baxter, Adams, Lough (Hunter 46), Morse, Turnbull (Trialist 57), Wright (Ross 70), Briggs (c), Cogdon, Finnigan (Cowburn 70), Gillies. Sub not used: Naisbett.
Goals: Cogdon (57, 90).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.