Alex Kempster caught the eye with a second half brace as South Shields won for the second time in pre-season at Marske United on Saturday.
After a goalless first half, the Mariners scored four of the five goals netted after the break on a blustery August afternoon at Mount Pleasant.
Josh Gillies and Jason Gilchrist also found the net for the first time in pre-season as Shields secured a confidence-boosting result to step up their preparations for the new campaign.
The flurry of second half goals was in stark contrast to what had been seen before half-time, when chances had been few and far between.
Gilchrist tested home goalkeeper Ryan Catterick with a firm strike from the edge of the box and Will McCamley also forced a save from him, but there had been little quality shown in the final third at either end of the pitch.
That all changed in the second 45 minutes as Shields returned to the field with the bit between their teeth.
Half-time substitute Will Jenkins saw his half-volley palmed behind by Catterick and the resulting corner from Gillies bounced in the six-yard box before crossing the line, with the whip on the low delivery enough to deceive Catterick.
Marske’s response to falling behind was impressive, and after Curtis Round and Jack Blackford had drawn saves from Myles Boney, the hosts were awarded a penalty when Gary Brown tripped Louis Johnson.
Craig Gott sent Boney the wrong way from the spot to equalise as the game burst into life.
The home side had opportunities to go in front, most notably when a corner was caught by the wind and struck the crossbar, but it was to be Shields who dealt the next decisive blow.
Gillies picked out Kempster 25 yards from goal and he turned his man superbly before angling an effort into the corner of the net with his left foot.
It was Kempster’s first goal since joining Shields from York City in the summer and there was more yet to come.
He almost added a stunning second when he got on the end of a ball forward by Boney, flicked it over the defender with his head and sent a delicate lob just over, but he didn’t have too much longer to wait.
Gilchrist laid the ball off to him on the edge of the box and another pinpoint left-foot effort nestled in the bottom corner to double Shields’ advantage.
Gilchrist got in on the act himself towards the end when Robert Briggs found him with a brilliant pass over the top and he rounded Catterick before finishing with ease.
A further goal narrowly eluded Gilchrist as he fizzed a shot just past the post, with Shields’ new-found dominance continuing until the end.
The Mariners are back in action on Saturday when they take on Blyth Spartans at 1st Cloud Arena.
South Shields: Boney, Baxter (Hunter 62), Adams (Croft 83), Ross (Thompson 71), Morse (Verstraaten 46), Brown (Lockey 83), McCamley (Jenkins 46), Briggs (c), Gilchrist, Gillies, Kempster. Sub not used: Hodgson.
Goals: Gillies (51), Kempster (62, 76), Gilchrist (80).
South Shields FC is delighted to announce the signing of forward Alex Kempster.
The 24-year-old arrives after a two-and-a-half-year spell at York City, where he scored 10 goals in 34 league appearances last season.
Kempster was a key part of the York side which topped National League North in 2019-20 before the campaign was brought to a premature end.
He progressed impressively at Bootham Crescent following his arrival from Whitley Bay in February 2018, and also had a spell on loan with Spennymoor Town during his time at York.
After positive talks with Shields joint managers Graham Fenton and Lee Picton, Kempster opted to make the move to South Tyneside and bring his stint with the Minstermen to an end.
He said: “I’m buzzing to be a South Shields player.
“I’m excited to have a new venture and hopefully I’ll be able to help the club get where they want to be.
“After speaking to Lee and Graham about the vision here, and having seen how well the club has progressed over recent years, it’s a decision I’m very happy with.
“I’ve known them for a while and it’s clear what they’ve got set up here and what they want going forward.
“I’ve committed to the club because I can see where they want to go and want to be part of that progression.
“Hopefully we can do well this season and then kick on in the years ahead.”
Both Shields and York suffered a bitterly disappointing end to last season, missing out on promotion in unfortunate circumstances.
While the Mariners’ league campaign was controversially voided, York were pipped to top spot in National League North by King’s Lynn Town on points per game before being beaten in the play-off semi-final by Altrincham.
Kempster and his new Shields team-mates therefore all want to put the bitter taste of last season behind them and hit the ground running in the new campaign.
The arrival of Kempster has provided the Shields management team of Fenton, Picton and assistant manager Brian Smith with a major boost, adding to the earlier captures of previous loanees Myles Boney and Jordan Hunter.
Fenton said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have secured the signing of Alex.
“He has progressed really well over the last few seasons having come from the Northern League to play regularly for a side challenging for promotion from National League North.
“We feel it’s a real coup for the club to have attracted someone of Alex’s quality and age, with the potential to improve further.
“He ticks a lot of the boxes that myself, Lee and Brian were looking for in our only new signing of the off-season, not including the players whose loans have become permanent.
“Supporters can look forward to watching someone who is very athletic and can take people on, while hopefully chipping in with a fair amount of assists and goals over the next few years.”
There is a palpable feeling of excitement among the Shields ranks ahead of the new season, which could start with a league fixture on Saturday, September 19 although that date has not yet been confirmed, and fixtures have not been released.
Fenton has told of his satisfaction with the way the squad has come together.
He added: “This finalises our squad and we’re absolutely delighted with how it’s shaping up.
“The players have looked after themselves well over the last few months and are in a great starting place.
“There are plenty of improvements to come from them, but with the quality and enthusiasm they have I’m sure we will get the season off to a really good start.”