South Shields enjoyed a positive start to pre-season as they held National League side Gateshead to a 1-1 draw at Mariners Park on Saturday.
The Mariners took the lead within the opening three minutes when a well-worked short corner routine led to Jon Shaw slotting in against his former club.
The hosts’ bright play continued throughout the first half, and they deservedly held the advantage at half-time.
Both sides made wholesale changes in the second half, and Gateshead got back on level terms when an excellent long-range strike by Robbie Tinkler found the top corner.
In the end, the draw was a fair result in front of a superb crowd of 1,449.
Shields started on the front foot, and forced an early corner when an effort from the edge of the box from a trialist was deflected over.
The Mariners elected to play the corner short, and a routine worked on in training came to fruition as Julio Arca eventually forced the ball through into the inside-right of the box for Alex Nicholson, whose low pass across the face of goal was tucked away by Shaw.
Nicholson proved to be very influential in the first half on the right of a midfield diamond, and he tested Gateshead goalkeeper Dan Hanford with a low effort which was held soon after the opening goal.
Shields were the better side in the first half, but the visitors had their moments, including one opportunity when Wes York burst through on the right before pulling the ball across goal. Just as it appeared set to be tapped in, Craig Baxter came to the rescue as he hacked the ball clear against his former side.
Within a minute, a free-kick by JJ O’Donnell was destined for the bottom corner before being palmed behind by Shields goalkeeper Liam Connell.
Arca went close with a piledriver of an effort shortly before the half-hour mark, and that was the closest Shields would come to extending their lead until a minute before half-time, when Carl Finnigan’s effort was deflected just wide.
The Mariners then almost scored an early goal of the season contender when some superb build-up play on the right eventually led to Nicholson breaking into the box, and after beating his man, his shot looked set to find the bottom corner before Hanford produced a brilliant one-handed save.
Shields made six changes at half-time, when Gateshead changed almost their entire team, and the game lost a bit of its rhythm.
The Heed came on stronger, and after substitute Scott Barrow had sent a bullet of an effort not far wide, Robbie Tinkler brought them level with a stunning strike into the top corner form 25 yards. It was an effort which drew applause from much of the near-1,500 crowd.
There were few more clear-cut chances until a Shields trialist worked an opening for himself on the inside-left of the box before firing over.
It proved to be a rewarding work-out for both teams, and the Mariners will look to build on their positive display on Thursday when they visit Boldon CA in the Sam Bartram Memorial Cup.
SOUTH SHIELDS (first half): Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw, Morse, Arca (c), Nicholson, Smith, Blinco, Finnigan, Trialist.
SOUTH SHIELDS (second half): Connell, Nicholson (Trialist 69), Callaghan, Storey, Morse (Trialist 69), Briggs (Smith 87), Stephenson, Smith (c) (Trialist 69), Cogdon, Finnigan (Trialist 69), Richardson.
Goal: Shaw (4).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.