Despite an attempted second half fightback, South Shields’ season got off to a losing start after three first half goals cost them dearly against Northallerton Town.
In front of a crowd of 417 at Mariners Park, Northallerton had a dream start, racing into a 3-0 lead within 32 minutes.
Things got worse for Shields when captain Leepaul Scroggins missed a penalty, while a number of other tremendous opportunities were squandered before the break.
The Mariners got one back when Lee Scott headed in on 58 minutes, and David Foley pulled back another in stoppage time, but Northallerton had done enough to claim all three points on the opening day.
The visitors looked threatening from the start, and Shields goalkeeper Gareth Young had to be on hand to stop an effort from Aaron Ramsbottom after just 45 seconds.
Another opportunity came soon after, and this time Joshua Knox nodded wide after a cross from the right.
The Mariners slowly played their way into proceedings, and a cross from the left by Adam Curry just missed Aris Lokonga Guerin and Scott in the centre, while Wayne Phillips sliced wide.
Scott had a half-chance on 19 minutes, but his half-volley bobbled in the six yard box and the defender cleared.
Northallerton took the lead moments later when Shields were indecisive at the back, and Kyle Swankie nicked the ball from Young before sending it first time into the net.
The visitors scored a second goal in three minutes in the 21st minute when a ball was played from the left back to Young, whose touch was too heavy, and Andrew Ramsbottom took it off him before converting.
Two became three on 32 minutes as Colin Anderson slid a ball to Andrew Ramsbottom on the inside-right of the box, and he beat his man before rolling it into the opposite bottom corner to leave Mariners Park stunned.
Shields needed something to bring them back to life, and they appeared to get just that when Scroggins dribbled into the box on the left and was brought down for a penalty. However, Scroggins then sent the spot-kick wide of the left-hand post, and just about everything that could be going wrong for the home side was.
Two more glorious opportunities were missed deep into first half stoppage time. The first came when Foley’s expert flick over the top found Galpin, whose shot was parried to Guerin, but he failed to get any power on the ball. He still got enough on it to deny Scott, just in front of him, a shot at goal, and the ball was eventually cleared.
The second chance arrived when Curry’s cross from the left was nodded goalwards by Scott, and Guerin missed his kick before a defender hacked it clear as Northallerton maintained their three-goal advantage at half-time.
Shields started the second half brightly, with Foley dragging a shot wide within moments of the restart, while a shot from 25 yards from Scroggins bounced in front of the goalkeeper, who was eventually able to palm it behind.
The first goal the Mariners needed to get a foothold in the game arrived two minutes before the hour mark. Phillips curled in a cross from the right, and Scott got enough on a header to beat the goalkeeper as he scored his first competitive goal for the club.
Shields had some momentum, and Scroggins curled narrowly over before Wayne Buchanan nodded another effort wide.
The hosts still had to be mindful of the danger at the other end, and Northallerton fired another warning of their capabilities on 65 minutes when Andrew Ramsbottom found substitute Daniel McLachlan just inside the area, and he sliced a shot inches over the bar.
Shields were creating the most opportunities by this stage, but were struggling to hit the target, with Scroggins hitting one wide while Phillips blazed over before curling another one just past the post.
It was almost game over with nine minutes left when a header by Jason Newell struck the post before bouncing across the face of goal and narrowly missing.
From then, Northallerton seemed to retreat, and Shields enjoyed some late pressure.
Scott headed one over, and Phillips was denied by the gloves of Stephen Richardson after another shot following a cut inside from the right.
From the resulting corner, Michael Turner volleyed wide, while Foley also headed past the post before grabbing another goal back three minutes into stoppage time. That came after the ball was slid into him just inside the box on the left, and he superbly beat his man before firing a shot which was too hot to handle for Richardson, who pushed it into the air before it bounced in.
Time was running out for an equaliser, but a half-chance arrived five minutes into stoppage time when Buchanan looked set to latch onto a ball over the top, but he was just beaten to the ball by a defender as Northallerton held on for the three points.
Shields will look to win their first points of the season on Tuesday, when Billingham Town visit Mariners Park for a 7.30pm kick-off.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Young, Smith, Curry (Turner 62), Buchanan, Galpin, McMahon (Chapim 56), Foley, Scroggins (c), Guerin (Melvin 69), Scott, Phillips. Subs not used: Beal, Sakr.
Goals: Scott (58), Foley (90+3).
NORTHALLERTON TOWN: Richardson, Muir, Sowerby (Tunstall 53), Ryder (Newall 75), Wood (c), Owen, Andrew Ramsbottom, Knox, Anderson, Aaron Ramsbottom (McLachlan 61), Swankie. Subs not used: Calvert, Reaks.
Goals: Swankie (19), Andrew Ramsbottom (21, 32).
Winning raffle ticket: 391-395 (green).
A full slideshow of images from the game is available here: In Pictures – South Shields 2-3 Northallerton Town