Summer signing Gary Brown drilled home a late winner as South Shields maintained their 100% start to pre-season on Tuesday.
Shields defeated a team put together by Catalyst Professional Sports Management 4-3 on an entertaining night at Mariners Park.
Players on both sides caught the eye on a night when supporters were granted free entry as the Mariners continued their preparations for the new season.
The hosts twice had to come from a goal behind, but Carl Finnigan, Michael Colquhoun, Max Cowburn and Brown all got on the scoresheet as they followed up Friday’s 2-1 win over Consett with another victory.
Both teams had their moments in the first half, and the first goalmouth action of note came in the 16th minute when Shields defender Dillon Morse made a good block to deny Luke Daly.
The Mariners thought they had taken the lead later in the half when a cross from Josh Gillies was turned in by a trialist, but the goal was ruled out for offside.
Darren Lough had earlier flashed an effort over, and a similar shot from the right by a trialist also did not trouble Catalyst’s Croatian goalkeeper Miro Varvodic.
Varvodic was beaten four minutes before half-time, but a trialist’s cross from the right came back off the post, and Craig Baxter could only thrash the long-distance rebound over the bar.
Catalyst took the lead a minute into first half stoppage time when Shields goalkeeper Liam Connell brilliantly kept out a powerful effort from striker Tyler Savitsky, but could do nothing to prevent the American striker crashing in the rebound.
The Mariners made five changes at half-time and one of those introduced, academy midfielder Lewis Orrell, almost made an immediate impact when he struck the post after getting on the end of a low cross from Gillies.
The home side made a promising start to the second half and were back on level terms when, after a handball in the area, Finnigan stepped up to convert the penalty on 50 minutes.
Finnigan then turned provider when he played in another academy prospect, Cowburn, but former Hajduk Split, FC Koln and Qarabag goalkeeper Varvodic was out quickly to close the angle and make an impressive save.
Catalyst enjoyed a good spell after the hour mark and built some pressure on the Shields goal.
Substitute goalkeeper Elliot Stephenson was called into action on a number of occasions, and first kept out a free-kick from Dylan Burns.
He made two more impressive stops in the minutes which followed, with a strong hand from the goalkeeper denying Savitsky a second before he also saved from Daly after his shot took a deflection.
The pressure paid off for the visitors on 70 minutes when Swedish midfielder Dan Monell was played in on the inside-left of the box before slotting the ball low past Stephenson.
Shields showed fine character to hit back immediately, with two of their academy talents combining for the equaliser.
Orrell got in on the inside-right of the box and fizzed the ball into the centre, where Colquhoun was on hand to turn it home.
The Mariners built momentum after the goal, and academy starlet Bailey Judson stung the palms of Varvodic with a decent effort from distance as they looked to go ahead for the first time.
They did just that in the 77th minute and in some style, too, as Cowburn let fly from the inside-right of the area and picked out the top corner.
Catalyst were far from done, though, and after they were awarded a free-kick at a tight angle outside the box on the left, Savitsky curled a superb effort in at the near post which Stephenson was unable to keep out.
Those in attendance were certainly being thoroughly entertained, and Cowburn almost added a glittering second when he twisted outside the area before unleashing a terrific shot which crashed against the bar.
Both teams had opportunities to score the game’s seventh goal. Shields midfielder Arron Thompson curled wide from the edge of the box and Savitsky was denied a hat-trick at the other end by a good reflex stop from Stephenson.
Colquhoun had an effort deflected over for the Mariners and, from the resulting corner, the decisive goal was scored.
Cowburn’s set-piece from the right fell to the feet of Brown 12 yards out, and he rifled the ball into the bottom corner to settle an entertaining encounter.
Shields joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton will have been left with plenty to ponder – mostly positive – ahead of Saturday’s friendly against Blyth Spartans at Mariners Park.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Brown, Morse, Turnbull, Trialist, Guy, Finnigan (c), Trialist, Gillies. Subs (all used): Stephenson, Shaw, Hunter, Thompson, Cowburn, Orrell, Trialist, Judson, M Colquhoun.
Goals: Finnigan (pen 50), Colquhoun (71), Cowburn (77), Brown (88).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.