South Shields were in clinical mood as they sealed a deserved 3-1 victory at Stalybridge Celtic to make it two wins from two in the Pitching In Northern Premier League.
Two goals in three minutes from Darius Osei and Blair Adams – both assisted by the excellent Jordan Hunter – earned the Mariners a commanding first half lead but they were put under pressure by their hosts after the break.
Graham Fenton’s side held firm after Ioan Evans halved their advantage, though, and were rewarded as Ntumba Massanka slammed home to seal a hard-fought three points on the road.
Shields opted for a 3-5-2 formation at Bower Fold and their wing-back pairing of Adams and Hunter proved to be integral to the win.
However, they found chances difficult to come by in the early stages, with the visitors generally controlling proceedings without penetrating Celtic’s backline.
The Mariners appeared to step it up a gear midway through the first half and after earning a corner on the right, a dangerous delivery by Nathan Lowe curved its way towards goal and needed to be tipped over by Stalybridge goalkeeper Grant Shenton.
Their dominance on the ball got its reward just before the half-hour mark as they converted their first real opening of the game.
Hunter edged the ball inside from the left flank and powered in a delivery which Osei superbly flicked goalwards from 12 yards with the back of his head. It ultimately had too much on it for Shenton as the forward notched his first competitive goal of the season against his former club.
Buoyed by his assist, Hunter roared forward again less than three minutes later as Shields counter-attacked with pace. Conor Tee and Osei combined before Hunter was released down the right and sent a superb low cross into the six-yard box, where his fellow wing-back Adams was on hand to convert after darting inside.
The Mariners had been ruthless with their opportunities and almost added a third early in the second half.
Dillon Morse’s header found Adams 25 yards from goal and with the left-back full of confidence after scoring in successive games, he was eyeing another one. His low effort struck the inside of the post before bouncing to safety.
Shields sensed an opportunity to put the game to bed and created a double chance moments later, but Tee’s strike was beaten away by Shenton and a follow-up shot from Osei was blocked.
The momentum shifted in the 55th minute as Celtic halved their deficit. Callum Harris teased in a superb cross from the left and Evans got on the end of it to nod past Myles Boney.
Boney was at his commanding best in the following minutes as the home side attempted to notch up the pressure in search of an equaliser.
Eventually Shields established control again and they almost restored their two-goal advantage when a delivery from the left by Adams was headed narrowly over by Jack Bodenham.
The away side remained composed as they protected their win, which was secured seven minutes from the end after impressive work from substitutes Will Jenkins and Alex Kempster before the latter delivered an excellent cross which Massanka rifled into the top corner with a quick turn of his body.
Kempster could have added further gloss to the scoreline in stoppage time but curled wide after racing through on goal.
Shields had by then done enough to secure a second successive victory, and they will look to make it three when they travel to Witton Albion on Saturday.
South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams (c), Shaw, Morse, Bodenham, Osei (Kempster 76), Ross, Massanka (Hodgson 89), Lowe, Tee (Jenkins 71). Subs not used: Briggs, McGowan.
Goals: Osei (29), Adams (31), Massanka (83).
South Shields got off to a winning start in the Pitching In Northern Premier League as Blair Adams’ fierce strike and two debut goals from Ntumba Massanka saw off the challenge of Mickleover at a buoyant 1st Cloud Arena.
Adams’ fierce drive in the first half will take some beating in the goal of the season stakes and was the perfect way for the Mariners to mark their return to competitive action after 249 long days without it.
Massanka fired home a quickfire double early in the second half to seal the points for the Mariners as they delighted a crowd of more than 1,700 in the South Tyneside sunshine.
Adams’ first half stunner was a deserved opening goal for the Mariners, who dominated proceedings in the first half as several players came to the fore.
Darius Osei continued the outstanding form he had demonstrated in pre-season with a direct display which the visitors struggled to handle, with his first bright moment arriving in just the second minute as he tested goalkeeper Callum Hawkins from range.
Nathan Lowe also forced Hawkins into a save with a free-kick from deep, with Robert Briggs seeing a similar effort kept out by the goalkeeper shortly after the quarter-hour mark.
The season had lift-off 11 minutes before half-time thanks to a blockbuster from Adams’ left foot. As he collected possession just outside the area on the left he had only one thing on his mind and delivered just that. He crashed the ball towards goal and as it rose and rose, its progress could only be stopped by the top corner of the netting as Shields’ left-back started the season in some style.
Myles Boney had not been tested at that stage but he was called upon as the game approached half-time, and responded in fine fashion.
A mix-up in midfield by Shields saw Declan Bacon presented with a one-on-one opportunity but Boney was out in a flash to close down the angle and save. He could only parry the ball, though, and as Mickleover kept it alive Bacon was presented with another opportunity, this time sending a header into the ground which Boney superbly tipped over.
If that was a warning for the Mariners, their reaction was immediate and they almost doubled their lead as Briggs pounced on a loose ball to run through on goal, but his deft shot went past the post.
There was still time for Stuart Beavon to head narrowly wide as the away side again threatened an equaliser, but Shields will have gone in at the break satisfied with their first half display and confident there was more to come. So it proved.
Graham Fenton’s side went to another level after the restart as they repeatedly pressurised their opponents and added a clinical touch to provide the goals their possession warranted.
They doubled their advantage less than three minutes into the second half as Adams turned provider, advancing down the left and delivering a superb low cross which Massanka swept home on his competitive debut for the club.
The striker swiftly added another six minutes later when Lowe’s corner from the right was headed by Dillon Morse to Osei and when his shot was blocked, Massanka was quickest to respond before unleashing an unstoppable strike into the roof of the net.
Massanka was replaced by fellow new boy Jack Bodenham soon after as Shields tried out another formation but their progress continued, with Briggs going close to goal number four as his near-post header from a Lowe corner was saved well by Hawkins.
The Mariners’ domination of possession continued, albeit without the creation of clear chances.
A further goal was ultimately not needed though as the hosts began the campaign in serene style ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Stalybridge Celtic.
South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams (Kempster 72), Shaw, Morse, Ross, Osei, Briggs (c) (McGowan 79), Massanka (Bodenham 59), Lowe, Tee. Subs not used: Jenkins, Hodgson.
Goals: Adams (34), Massanka (48, 54).
Image: Kev Wilson.
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.