South Shields 0-1 Hebburn Town
South Shields played their first match in 158 days as they began their pre-season programme with a 1-0 defeat to neighbours Hebburn Town on Tuesday.
The behind-closed-doors game saw Shields name two entirely different teams for the two halves as players were given an opportunity to phase their way back into match action.
As ever with pre-season the result was not paramount, and the Mariners will have been pleased with many aspects of their performance as some of the inevitable summer rust was chipped away.
Hebburn – playing their fourth friendly so far – ultimately claimed victory with a long-range strike from Robbie Spence four minutes before the end at 1st Cloud Arena.
Shields handed a first start to new signing Alex Kempster, with Academy left-back Josh Croft also in the line-up for the pre-season opener.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton’s side started with a period of sustained possession but chances were hard to come by at both end, with most of the play restricted to the middle third.
Myles Boney was called into action to make a relatively simple stop from former Shields striker Graeme Armstrong, with the goalkeeper also on hand to save an attempted chip by the same player.
At the other end, the hosts looked bright as Nathan Lowe, Jason Gilchrist, Gillies and Kempster linked up, and Gillies had a sight of goal on the half-hour mark but his effort went not far past the post.
The closest Shields came in the first half followed a loose pass by Hornets goalkeeper Mark Foden which was pounced on before Arron Thompson’s shot from the edge of the box was well blocked.
Gillies also tested Foden before the half was out while Boney denied Amar Purewal as the teams returned to the dressing room at half-time with the game goalless.
Shields introduced a new XI at the break which included Will McCamley, making his first senior appearance for the club after his return on loan from Huddersfield Town.
He was a bright spark on the left flank and had arguably Shields’ best chance to score, rounding the goalkeeper before seeing his shot blocked after some impressive play.
A trialist – brought on to play on the right – also had a good opportunity when he was played in down the right of the area but he pulled an effort narrowly wide with Foden beaten.
The Mariners were forced into a reshuffle midway through the second half as Jordan Hunter was forced off with an injury, with Croft reintroduced in his place and Blair Adams moving to an unnatural position of right-back.
Hebburn had their best spell of the game late on and rattled the crossbar with eight minutes remaining with a shot from Michael McKeown following a set-piece.
They took the lead with a terrific strike from 25 yards by Spence in the 86th minute, leaving the home side with little time to respond.
Shields did probe for an equaliser in the minutes which remained but were unable to find a way past Foden as the Hornets held onto their clean sheet and continued their unbeaten start to pre-season.
The Mariners are back in action on Friday with a fixture against West Auckland Town at 1st Cloud Arena.
South Shields (first half): Boney, Baxter, Croft, Turnbull, Morse, Verstraaten, Gillies, Thompson, Gilchrist, Lowe, Kempster.
South Shields (second half): Coombe, Hunter (Croft 67), Adams, Ross, Brown, Lockey, McCamley, Briggs, Hodgson, Jenkins, Trialist.
IMAGE: Kev Wilson.