Carl Finnigan’s second half goal was not enough for South Shields as a Sunderland AFC XI inflicted their first defeat of pre-season.
The Black Cats ran out 3-1 winners in Stephen Ramsey’s testimonial at Mariners Park with goals from Ethan Robson, Tom Beadling and Owen Gamble.
It was a high-quality game, with Sunderland having sent a strong Under-23s side to South Tyneside.
Shields, meanwhile, had to do without the likes of Liam Connell, Jon Shaw, Julio Arca and Gavin Cogdon – all a crucial and experienced member of the team’s spine.
They far from disgraced themselves though against a young, professional outfit who impressed at Mariners Park in front of a superb crowd of 1,405.
Sunderland started well, and were awarded a penalty in the sixth minute when Craig Baxter handled in the area. Robson made no mistake from the spot, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way as his effort kissed the post before nestling in the net.
Shields had to show patience in attacks and at times struggled to break through a well-marshalled defence, but when they did, they came up against a goalkeeper in impressive form in James Talbot.
The Mariners were unable to seriously test Talbot in the first half, but he was solid when called upon and dealt with a number of low crosses and efforts from distance.
Sunderland almost doubled their lead on 28 minutes when the impressive Luke Molyneux hit a shot from outside the area which was initially fumbled by Shields’ trialist goalkeeper before being grasped at the second attempt.
Molyneux was always a danger, and went close again when he cut in from the right before hitting a powerful low effort which was pushed behind for a corner.
The Mariners made five changes at half-time, and one of those who was introduced almost brought them level within seven minutes of the restart.
A corner was flicked towards goal by Luke Sullivan, but brilliantly cleared off the line before Louis Storey turned the rebound over.
Sunderland responded immediately to that scare and went close as Robson’s 20-yard effort flew not far wide, while Andrew Nelson also flashed a shot past the post.
Talbot was called on to make the save of the game midway through the second half. A fine Shields move led to an effort by Andrew Stephenson from the edge of the box, and a deflection wrong-footed the goalkeeper. However, he adjusted his body and stretched out a hand to somehow parry the shot.
It broke to Finnigan, who blasted it into the net, but the assistant referee’s flag went up for offside.
The Black Cats doubled their advantage less than four minutes later when Beadling found the bottom corner with a free-kick from just outside the area.
Finnigan got on the scoresheet soon after to pull one goal back for the Mariners, getting free on the inside-right of the box before firing low into the net.
There was to be no late drama, though, as Sunderland hit Shields on the break with three minutes left to seal their victory. Nelson played the ball through for Gamble, and he slotted it into the net to end the Mariners’ chances.
Shields now have just one pre-season game left, which they will play on Saturday when they visit Whitby Town. Kick-off is at 1pm.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Trialist (Trialist 46), Baxter (Nicholson 46), Callaghan, Briggs (Trialist 65), Morse (Lough 46), Storey, Smith (c) (Stephenson 46), Pattison (Trialist 65), Finnigan, Richardson, Blinco (Sullivan 46).
Goal: Finnigan (73).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.