South Shields hit Stockton Town for six at a sweltering 1st Cloud Arena as the Mariners marked their long-awaited homecoming in style.
It was Shields’ first home match in 261 days and a crowd of 973 cheered them to an emphatic 6-1 pre-season win as Blair Adams, Alex Kempster, Ntumba Massanka and Callum Ross all netted, with Darius Osei adding a further two goals.
It was a hugely encouraging performance and result from the Mariners against a side which won promotion from the Northern League last season.
Seemingly inspired by a buoyant home support, Graham Fenton’s team made their intentions clear immediately as they pressed from the front.
Within two minutes, Kempster won the ball inside the Stockton penalty area and pulled it back for Nathan Lowe, who fired over from 12 yards.
Lowe was central to the game’s opening exchanges and drew a low save from Connor Roberts before picking out Dillon Morse with a superb free-kick which the defender headed narrowly wide.
Shields were dominant in possession and quickly won it back whenever they lost it. Their early pressure paid off in the 17th minute.
Lowe clipped a ball into the area which Kempster headed across goal to Adams, who volleyed home from close range to give the hosts a deserved lead.
Stockton’s response was impressive and they went close to pulling level almost immediately, but Myles Boney was alert to the danger as he narrowed the angle and smothered an effort from Jonathan Franks.
The game’s second goal was not long in coming, though, and it was Shields who claimed it.
Kempster pounced on a loose ball in the Stockton box and danced around Roberts before, with defenders converging, he rifled into the roof of the net as the home side’s strong start continued.
The Mariners were enjoying particular success down the left flank and some fine work on that channel almost resulted in a third goal. They patiently worked their way into the area and Massanka’s backheel played in Adams, who was only denied a second goal by the legs of Roberts.
Osei and captain Robert Briggs were introduced from the bench in the 34th minute and the former almost scored with his first touch after being picked out by Massanka, but he guided the ball just past the post.
Briggs also threatened the Stockton goal with a powerful low drive from 25 yards which Roberts was forced to beat behind for a corner.
Shields were rampant and they added the third goal they had been probing for when Briggs’ corner from the right was punched by Roberts onto the head of Osei before dropping into the net.
The Anchors pulled a goal back moments before the break despite the best efforts of Dillon Morse, who cleared an effort from a corner off the line. Adam Nicholson reached the loose ball first and produced a swivelled finish to reduce the deficit to two.
Jon Shaw and Will Jenkins were brought on at half-time by the Mariners and it took just five minutes for Shaw to register an assist as he chested down a cross from Briggs to Ross, who buried it left footed into the bottom corner.
Any faint Stockton hopes of a comeback were extinguished in Shields’ next significant attack. Jordan Hunter was played into space down the right and produced a sumptuous cross into the six-yard area which Osei was on hand to slam past Roberts.
Massanka got in on the act on the hour mark on his first appearance at 1st Cloud Arena with a terrific first-time finish from a Conor Tee cutback.
There were opportunities for the Mariners to further extend their lead in the late stages, with Blair Rossiter dragging a shot narrowly wide, Sam Hodgson twice going close and Lowe firing a free-kick onto the roof of the net, while substitute goalkeeper Aaron Steavens made two smart saves at the other end.
It was a superb afternoon’s work for the Mariners, who registered their second win from two pre-season games. They are back in action on Tuesday when they welcome Consett to 1st Cloud Arena.
South Shields: Boney (Steavens 61), Hunter (Verstraaten 61), Adams (c) (Lowe 61), Ross (Rossiter 61), Morse (Shaw 46), Trialist (Agnew 61), Kempster (Osei 34), Lowe (Briggs 34), Massanka (Hodgson 61), McGowan (Jenkins 46), Tee (Kempster 61).
Goals: Adams (17), Kempster (22), Osei (44, 53), Ross (50), Massanka (60).
Image: Kev Wilson.
Welcome to the 10th day of December, which also sees the 10th installment of our SSFC Advent Calendar feature.
Throughout the first 24 days of the month we will attempt to spread a bit of festive cheer, and today’s feature is kicked off by Alex Kempster, whose message for fans can be viewed via the tweet below.
Allow Alex Kempster to introduce Day 🔟 of the #SSFCAdventCalendar as he delivers a festive message for you all!
He also asks the latest question as part of our comp to win a signed SSFC shirt! Submit your answers after question 4⃣ on Saturday! pic.twitter.com/WLD2uxBsno
— South Shields FC (@SouthShieldsFC) December 10, 2020
Over the next 24 days, you will be able to enter a range of competitions to win prizes courtesy of the club and several of its sponsors.
The latest item up for grabs is a signed South Shields home shirt.
To enter this competition, supporters must wait until four questions have been asked, with the fourth to be published on Saturday. Supporters will have until 9am the following day to submit all of their four answers together via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first question, asked by Jason Gilchrist yesterday, was: Which club did Jason Gilchrist score his first competitive goal for South Shields against?
Today’s question is: Which club did Alex Kempster join South Shields from?
Remember, don’t submit your answers until the fourth question has been published on Saturday.
We are today launching another competition in partnership with our sponsor Stoney’s Barber Shop.
A voucher for a haircut, deluxe shave and products is up for grabs and to enter the competition, you must do one of the following by 1pm on Saturday…
TO ENTER VIA TWITTER:
1. Like and retweet the below tweet
2. Make sure you are following the following accounts on Twitter: @SouthShieldsFC, @SSFCFoundation, @SSFCAcademy
Win a voucher for a haircut, deluxe shave and products with Stoney's Barber Shop in the #SSFCAdventCalendar!
One winner will be selected from all Twitter and FB entries! pic.twitter.com/hBNMYlWNzj
— South Shields FC (@SouthShieldsFC) December 10, 2020
TO ENTER VIA FACEBOOK:
1. Like, share and tag three of your friends on the competition posted on the South Shields FC Facebook page on Thursday morning.
2. Make sure you like the following pages on Facebook: South Shields FC, SSFC Foundation, Stoney’s Barber Shop
We would like to thank Stoney’s Barber Shop for their continued support.
We are also now highlighting our third charity of the month, Autism Able.
This is a fantastic South Shields-based charity which provides positive educational, social and work experiences for all learners enabling them to develop personally, vocationally and academically within an autism-friendly environment supported by passionate, caring and experienced staff with high standards and expectations.
Over the month, donations will also be encouraged towards the club’s charitable Foundation, which works with hundreds of children each week and does such fantastic work within our community.
To support the Foundation with a donation, please click here.
Thank you for your continued support and keep an eye out for Day Eleven tomorrow!
South Shields succumbed to their first defeat of the season as an energetic Radcliffe side won 3-1 at 1st Cloud Arena in the Pitching In Northern Premier League.
Radcliffe opened the scoring inside the first minute and although Alex Kempster equalised before half-time with his first competitive goal for the Mariners, they could not find their best form after the break.
The visitors ultimately claimed maximum points as Kole Hall clipped them back into the lead and the experienced Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro added his second goal of the night late on.
Shields were left to rue what might have been, with the woodwork struck three times during the 90 minutes by the home side.
They started on the back foot, though, falling behind with less than 60 seconds on the clock when a loose pass in midfield was pounced on by Akpa Akpro, who sent a clinical finish beyond Myles Boney into the bottom corner.
The Mariners almost responded immediately as Robert Briggs’ whipped corner from the left was glanced by the head of Jason Gilchrist and was destined for the net before being cleared off the line. Despite the hosts’ appeals that the ball had either crossed the line or struck the hand of the defender, the referee waved play on.
There was another opportunity for an equaliser soon after as Craig Baxter picked out Kempster midway inside the Radcliffe half and he drove beyond the defence with a fine run before his prodded effort was blocked by the legs of goalkeeper Cameron Belford, who had been quick to close the angle.
Shields were finding their feet and had further sights of goal as Darius Osei fired not far wide from 20 yards and Gilchrist was also off target from a similar distance.
They were almost caught out at the other end as a cross from the left was headed out as far as Luca Navarro, who skewed a volley wide from 12 yards when a goal appeared a distinct possibility.
The Mariners had appeared most likely to register the second goal of the game, though, and it arrived via a set-piece on 32 minutes.
Briggs curled in another superb corner from the left and this time Kempster met it at the near post to nod home and bring his side on level terms.
They didn’t have things all their own way in the remainder of the first half with Radcliffe continuing to pose a threat at the other end, but the closest either team came to taking the lead before half-time was a 25-yard strike by Gilchrist which Belford pushed wide.
Shields introduced Josh Gillies for Verstraaten at the break and they almost went ahead within four minutes of the restart as Gilchrist’s teasing low cross from the right begged a tough from Osei, but the forward just could not get enough purchase on the ball and the chance evaporated.
Radcliffe were the next to go for goal with an effort from 25 yards by Matty Crothers which Boney gathered at the second attempt, while at the other end Kempster had another shot saved by Belford.
Arguably the most crucial moment of the game arrived just before the hour mark when the ball was hooked forward to Hall just outside the box on the right and with Boney advancing, the Radcliffe forward expertly dinked it over him and into the net to give his side the advantage for a second time.
Former Grimsby Town, Rochdale and Tranmere Rovers forward Akpa Akpro was a thorn in Shields’ side throughout the game and he fired the hosts another warning when he fizzed an effort across goal which went not far wide of Boney’s right-hand post.
Kempster and Gilchrist meanwhile were consistently the Mariners’ most likely sources of goals and they combined to great effect in the 63rd minute as Kempster’s fine run and cross was met by a glancing shot by Gilchrist which struck the crossbar. Shields kept the ball alive and a second effort from Gilchrist trickled narrowly past the post.
Gillies curled a free-kick not far wide soon after before Gilchrist again fired a brilliant ball across the face of goal which just evaded the stretching Kempster in the middle.
It felt like an equaliser was coming and it almost arrived in stunning fashion when the ball broke to Gilchrist 20 yards out on the right and his venomous strike crashed against the crossbar as he was denied by the woodwork for a second time.
That momentum was eventually lost and Radcliffe had an opportunity to effectively seal the points, but Andrew Owens’ shot from the left of the area curled just wide.
Another huge chance for a Shields leveller came with 10 minutes left when Callum Ross played Gilchrist in on goal down the left, but he was unable to get a shot away and the ball squirmed loose. The Mariners kept it alive and continued probing but an eventual effort from Ross was blocked before Gilchrist headed over.
It would prove to be a vital moment as, just over a minute later, Radcliffe went out of sight with a prodded effort from Akpa Akpro which nestled in the bottom corner.
There was still time for Gilchrist to be frustrated by the woodwork for a third time as he pounced on a fumble by Belford and got a shot away from a tight angle which came back off the post.
There was by then no way back for Shields as their first defeat of the season was registered.
They will hope to bounce back on Saturday when they travel to Bamber Bridge.
South Shields: Boney, Baxter, Smith-Brown (McCamley 75), Shaw (c), Morse, Ross, Verstraaten (Gillies 46), Briggs, Gilchrist, Osei, Kempster. Subs not used: Coombe, Agnew, Hodgson.
Goal: Kempster (32).
Image: Kev Wilson.