Match report: South Shields 6-1 Stockton Town
South Shields hit Stockton Town for six at a sweltering 1st Cloud Arena as the Mariners marked their long-awaited homecoming in style.
It was Shields’ first home match in 261 days and a crowd of 973 cheered them to an emphatic 6-1 pre-season win as Blair Adams, Alex Kempster, Ntumba Massanka and Callum Ross all netted, with Darius Osei adding a further two goals.
It was a hugely encouraging performance and result from the Mariners against a side which won promotion from the Northern League last season.
Seemingly inspired by a buoyant home support, Graham Fenton’s team made their intentions clear immediately as they pressed from the front.
Within two minutes, Kempster won the ball inside the Stockton penalty area and pulled it back for Nathan Lowe, who fired over from 12 yards.
Lowe was central to the game’s opening exchanges and drew a low save from Connor Roberts before picking out Dillon Morse with a superb free-kick which the defender headed narrowly wide.
Shields were dominant in possession and quickly won it back whenever they lost it. Their early pressure paid off in the 17th minute.
Lowe clipped a ball into the area which Kempster headed across goal to Adams, who volleyed home from close range to give the hosts a deserved lead.
Stockton’s response was impressive and they went close to pulling level almost immediately, but Myles Boney was alert to the danger as he narrowed the angle and smothered an effort from Jonathan Franks.
The game’s second goal was not long in coming, though, and it was Shields who claimed it.
Kempster pounced on a loose ball in the Stockton box and danced around Roberts before, with defenders converging, he rifled into the roof of the net as the home side’s strong start continued.
The Mariners were enjoying particular success down the left flank and some fine work on that channel almost resulted in a third goal. They patiently worked their way into the area and Massanka’s backheel played in Adams, who was only denied a second goal by the legs of Roberts.
Osei and captain Robert Briggs were introduced from the bench in the 34th minute and the former almost scored with his first touch after being picked out by Massanka, but he guided the ball just past the post.
Briggs also threatened the Stockton goal with a powerful low drive from 25 yards which Roberts was forced to beat behind for a corner.
Shields were rampant and they added the third goal they had been probing for when Briggs’ corner from the right was punched by Roberts onto the head of Osei before dropping into the net.
The Anchors pulled a goal back moments before the break despite the best efforts of Dillon Morse, who cleared an effort from a corner off the line. Adam Nicholson reached the loose ball first and produced a swivelled finish to reduce the deficit to two.
Jon Shaw and Will Jenkins were brought on at half-time by the Mariners and it took just five minutes for Shaw to register an assist as he chested down a cross from Briggs to Ross, who buried it left footed into the bottom corner.
Any faint Stockton hopes of a comeback were extinguished in Shields’ next significant attack. Jordan Hunter was played into space down the right and produced a sumptuous cross into the six-yard area which Osei was on hand to slam past Roberts.
Massanka got in on the act on the hour mark on his first appearance at 1st Cloud Arena with a terrific first-time finish from a Conor Tee cutback.
There were opportunities for the Mariners to further extend their lead in the late stages, with Blair Rossiter dragging a shot narrowly wide, Sam Hodgson twice going close and Lowe firing a free-kick onto the roof of the net, while substitute goalkeeper Aaron Steavens made two smart saves at the other end.
It was a superb afternoon’s work for the Mariners, who registered their second win from two pre-season games. They are back in action on Tuesday when they welcome Consett to 1st Cloud Arena.
South Shields: Boney (Steavens 61), Hunter (Verstraaten 61), Adams (c) (Lowe 61), Ross (Rossiter 61), Morse (Shaw 46), Trialist (Agnew 61), Kempster (Osei 34), Lowe (Briggs 34), Massanka (Hodgson 61), McGowan (Jenkins 46), Tee (Kempster 61).
Goals: Adams (17), Kempster (22), Osei (44, 53), Ross (50), Massanka (60).
Image: Kev Wilson.