By Daniel Prince. Image by Peter Talbot.
Julio Arca marked his debut with a goal, but South Shields suffered a disappointing afternoon against Stokesley Sports Club at Mariners Park.
Arca opened the scoring in front of a superb crowd of 764, but Stokesley hit back late on as a deflected goal earned them their first point of the season.
The Mariners enjoyed much of the possession, with Arca impressive, and they carved out a number of clear-cut opportunities in the first half.
The first chance arrived when Warren Byrne charged down visiting goalkeeper Daniel Bowman and the ball broke to Ryan Noble 25 yards out, but he screwed his shot wide.
Soon after, the former Sunderland striker teed up Byrne, who fired over, and Noble later curled a shot over again when Bowman presented him with the ball outside the box.
Shields were becoming more and more dominant, and another fine move saw Arca and Robert Briggs combine, before a cross from the latter was flicked into the goalkeeper’s arms by Scroggins.
The Mariners captain went even closer just before the half hour mark when Arca’s wicked corner from the right fell perfectly onto his head, and he crashed an effort against the crossbar.
The hosts thought their pressure had told moments after when a rebound fell to Chapim and he tapped in, but the assistant referee’s flag was up for offside.
Noble then went on a run from the halfway line on the right and eventually found himself facing the goalkeeper, but Bowman kept out his shot.
Shields were trying desperately to break the deadlock before half-time, and Byrne so nearly did so when he turned his man inside out on the inside-left of the box before prodding an effort inches wide.
Arca threaded a pass through to Noble two minutes prior to the break, but he shot wide as the Mariners were left frustrated heading into the second half.
Stokesley got more of a foothold after the break, but the home side were still creating chances, with the first coming when Arca’s superb cross from the left just evaded Briggs in the centre.
At the other end, the visitors carved out their first real opportunity when a cross from Clayton McDonald fell for Jack Williams at the back post, and he could only volley well over.
Arca headed over while Briggs had an effort blocked before Shields finally broke the deadlock.
Briggs’ corner from the right was headed towards goal by Daryll Hall, and although his effort was blocked, the ball fell to Arca, who nudged it in via a defender to mark his debut with a goal.
The hosts then went about putting the game to bed, and Byrne almost made it two when Barrie Smith’s superb low cross from the right just evaded the striker in the centre as he slid in.
Chapim nudged a shot just wide after being found by Noble, while Briggs had a shot blocked as the familiar tale of Shields being frustrated in front of goal continued.
Against the run of play, though, Stokesley stunned their hosts with 13 minutes left as Joshua Chambers picked up the ball on the inside-right of the box, and his shot deflected off a defender before looping in the air and bouncing in off the crossbar.
Shields were then back in the position of chasing the game, and substitute Dean Thexton almost gave them the lead again on his debut when he weaved his way past a number of challenges before hitting the ball just wide.
A minute later, Arca had a shot blocked, Briggs was also denied and Chapim headed over, while two minutes before the end, Briggs was the latest player to hit the crossbar when he met Smith’s cross with his head.
The Mariners were frustrated again as the game ticked into stoppage time, with Thexton’s shot parried by Bowman, Arca’s effort blocked and Thexton then firing wide.
The final opportunity fell to Briggs in the 92nd minute as Scroggins headed it onto him, but his shot went inches wide as Shields were forced to take away just a point.
They take a break from league action on Tuesday, with a home tie against Crook Town in the Durham Challenge Cup.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Pocklington, Smith, Curry (Heptinstall 78), Hall, Galpin, Chapim, Briggs, Scroggins (c), Byrne (Thexton 65), Noble, Arca. Subs not used: Young, Riding, Turner.
Goal: Arca (63).