South Shields 0-2 Sunderland: Mariners get pre-season underway in front of big crowd
A strong Sunderland side won 2-0 at Mariners Park as South Shields got their pre-season preparations underway with a positive performance on Thursday.
The Black Cats fielded different XIs in both halves, with manager Jack Ross able to call upon the bulk of the squad which reached the League One play-off final last season.
But Shields were far from disgraced in front of a crowd just shy of 3,300 and were left to reflect on plenty of positives heading into Saturday’s friendly with Cleethorpes Town.
Sunderland undoubtedly started the stronger of the two teams, with captain George Honeyman and team-mate Lynden Gooch causing a number of problems.
Some early pressure paid off when Sunderland won the ball in a dangerous area and Benji Kimpioka squared it for Ethan Robson, who picked out the top corner to open the scoring at the factory end.
Shields almost immediately sparked into action as Josh Gillies found some space on the right flank and played in a dangerous low cross which the hosts were just unable to convert.
Liam Connell certainly had to be on his toes at the other end, though, and did superbly to make a double save from Kimpioka and Charlie Wyke when the Black Cats looked certain to double their lead.
The Mariners grew into the first half and were unfortunate not to equalise just before the half-hour mark as Gary Brown’s header from a Gillies corner was cleared off the line before the rebound from Dillon Morse went agonisingly into the side netting.
Another chance arrived for Shields soon after when they claimed possession high up the pitch and David Foley got in on the left of the box, but new Sunderland goalkeeper Lee Burge beat away his effort.
Burge was in the action again on the stroke of half-time as Lee Mason dispossessed him, but the goalkeeper recovered well to stall Mason and prevent him squaring to a team-mate.
Sunderland introduced the likes of Grant Leadbitter, Chris Maguire and Will Grigg at the break and looked strong throughout the second half.
They should have gone two up just three minutes after the restart, but Elliot Embleton fired wide from close range after getting on the end of a cross from the right.
Another opportunity went begging when Luke O’Nien got in behind on the right of the box and slid in a low ball which Grigg sent wide.
The second Black Cats goal did arrive on 54 minutes when Duncan Watmore danced his way through before his shot was blocked and diverted into the path of O’Nien, who pushed it into the corner of the net.
Connell did well to keep out a 20-yard effort from Maguire and later made an even more impressive stop as he tipped a rasping drive from Watmore onto the bar, before Brown brilliantly blocked the rebound from O’Nien.
Adam Thurston made a bright first appearance for Shields and he was joined on the pitch after the hour mark by fellow new boys Robinson Wokoma and Millenic Alli, who also made a positive first impression.
Leadbitter almost made it 3-0 when his effort from distance crashed against the crossbar, while Grigg fired wide from an O’Nien cross after decent build-up play from the visitors.
Alli offered a glimpse into his credentials towards the end when he showed his skills before shooting from 30 yards, with goalkeeper Anthony Patterson grasping the ball at the second attempt.
It was a terrific workout for the Mariners in front of a large crowd.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter (c), Adams (Charlton 73), Brown (Wokoma 63), Morse, Turnbull (Daly 63), Thurston (Guy 73), Lowe (Thompson 69), Foley (Alli 63), Mason (Trialist 63), Gillies (Wright 69). Sub not used: Steavens.
SUNDERLAND FIRST HALF: Burge, McLaughlin, Hackett, Loovens, Bainbridge, Robson, Kimpioka, McGeouch, Honeyman, Gooch, Wyke.
SUNDERLAND SECOND HALF: Patterson, Flanagan, Baldwin, Bainbridge (Hunter 63), O’Nien, Hume, Leadbitter, Embleton, Maguire, Watmore, Grigg. Subs not used: Sammut, Diamond, Abdelkader.
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.