South Shields 1-1 Spennymoor XI
By Daniel Prince
Long-serving striker Stephen Ramsey notched South Shields’ first goal since returning to Mariners Park – but it was not enough to beat a Spennymoor Town XI on Tuesday.
Ramsey struck seven minutes before the end of the pre-season friendly, but Connor Dunlavey equalised soon after to earn Spenny a share of the spoils.
The Mariners made nine changes from the side which faced Darlington on Saturday, with Warren Byrne, Jonny Wightman and Kenny Ball among those to start.
They started brightly, with Barrie Smith – who along with Michael Turner, kept his place from the weekend’s game – flashing a shot not far wide five minutes in.
Spennymoor played some good football of their own, but almost fell behind in comical circumstances when David Gibson played the ball back to David Atkinson, who missed his kick and was relieved to see it trickle inches wide.
At the other end, Steven Hubery did well to hold onto a low shot from Chris Lawther, while Ross Morrow’s 25-yard free-kick smashed off the crossbar before bouncing over.
Both sides were creating decent scoring opportunities, and the most gilt-edged of those fell to Shields on 28 minutes. The lively Glenn Donaldson slid the ball past his man on the right before sending in a cross which fell perfectly for Warren Byrne, who took a touch to steady himself before firing over from eight yards.
The match was played in front of a crowd of around 200 at Mariners Park, and the Shields supporters were almost able to celebrate the club’s first goal since returning to the ground on 36 minutes.
Ryan Bolam swung in a superb corner from the left which was attacked by the head of Turner, but after his effort was blocked on the line, Byrne also saw his follow-up effort diverted to safety.
Turner – who was playing in the centre of defence – had earlier made a superb last-ditch intervention just as a Spennymoor forward was about to pull the trigger, and had another impressive game at Mariners Park.
The sides went in level at the break, and that was the cue for Jon King and his backroom staff to make a host of changes, with Chris Locke, Lee McMahon, Lee Maitland, Lee Scott, Ryan Beal, James Talbot and Joe Melvin the players brought on.
Maitland made an immediate impact after coming on, and almost gave his side the lead, but his prodded shot was held by Atkinson.
Shields had came out for the second half with real intent, and went close again eight minutes after the break when Locke fizzed in a cross which found Scott, whose effort was deflected wide.
Wightman had a shot from the edge of the box deflected inches past the post, before Phil Gray and Wayne Buchanan became the latest players to be introduced from the bench.
For Spennymoor, substitute Dunlavey was proving to be a real live-wire, as he fired a shot wide before having another one deflected for a corner.
A big chance fell to Talbot in the 57th minute as he was sent through on goal on the inside-right of the box, but Atkinson kept out his effort with his legs.
Shields were increasing the pressure, but just could not find the elusive goal.
Turner headed a decent opportunity wide from a corner, while Wightman fired over before he was replaced by Ramsey with 21 minutes remaining.
Buchanan was the next to go close for the Mariners, as his header from a Gray free-kick was held by Atkinson.
The goal finally arrived seven minutes from time when Ramsey – who scored a hat-trick against Spennymoor Reserves in a friendly a year ago – struck. The ball was played into him on the edge of the box, and he fired a low shot that took a deflection before rolling into the bottom corner.
The game could – and perhaps should – have been put to bed from the restart as Melvin broke free of the Spennymoor defence, but his shot was saved by Atkinson, while Scott’s follow-up was cleared by a despairing defender.
Dunlavey remained a real threat, and he earned the visitors a draw four minutes before the 90 were up. He received the ball on the right of the box before dancing his way past two challenges and drilling a low shot past Beal and into the bottom corner.
Scott headed a superb chance wide from a Gray corner near the end, while the final opportunity fell to Ramsey, who was denied by a terrific Atkinson save after the ball was played into him on the inside-right of the box.
Shields will hope to pick up their first win of pre-season on Thursday, when they travel to Seaham Red Star. Kick-off is at 7.30pm.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Steven Hubery (Ryan Beal 46), Barrie Smith (Chris Locke 46), James Hepinstall (Phil Gray 56), Michael Turner, Aron Burn (Wayne Buchanan 56), Gary Crutwell (Lee Maitland 46), Jonny Wightman (Stephen Ramsey 69), Kenny Ball (Lee McMahon 46), Warren Byrne (Lee Scott 46), Glenn Donaldson (Joe Melvin 46), Ryan Bolam (James Talbot 46).
Goal: Ramsey (83).