A terrific free-kick from Josh Gillies steered South Shields to victory in the inaugural Jak Fada Memorial Trophy match against Cleethorpes Town at Mariners Park on Saturday.
The game was poised at 1-1 before Gillies’ 25-yard strike midway through the second half of a poignant meeting between the 2017 FA Vase finalists.
Cleethorpes had taken the lead within the first 25 seconds when Lewis Collins’ superb effort from outside the area found the top corner.
Lee Mason brought Shields level from the penalty spot before half-time and Gillies wrapped up the win after coming off the bench.
The Mariners were playing for the second time in three days, having opened their pre-season programme with a 2-0 defeat to Sunderland on Thursday.
Graham Fenton and Lee Picton made nine changes to the starting line-up and Shields were rocked within moments of kick-off as Collins’ strike from 20 yards out on the left nestled in the top corner.
The hosts recovered well from that early blow, with Millenic Alli a bright spark on the left as he made his first start for the club.
He almost helped bring Shields level on 14 minutes when he beat his man on the left of the area before firing a superb ball across the box which Lee Mason was just unable to connect with.
Jon Shaw and Gary Brown were also off-target with efforts, while a further attempt by Alli from the edge of the box was deflected over.
The Mariners were dominant in possession and almost got their reward five minutes before half-time when the ball dropped to Mason 12 yards out, but Owls goalkeeper Lewis Exall made a superb fingertip save to deny him.
From the resulting corner, Shields were awarded a penalty for a foul on Mason and the forward buried the spot-kick into the bottom corner to bring his side level.
The hosts continued to put pressure on Cleethorpes in the early stages of the second half and almost took the lead as an Arron Thompson effort from 20 yards dropped just wide.
Callum Guy also tested Exall with a decent strike, but Shields would have to wait until the 69th minute to get their breakthrough.
Gillies lined up a free-kick from 25 yards and buried it past Exall with a terrific strike. Shields’ defence was never likely to be breached from there.
Teenage goalkeeper Aaron Steavens – making his first senior appearance for the Mariners – was called upon to make one save from Jaime Ture, but was not seriously troubled.
Shields continue their pre-season preparations with a home game against a Huddersfield Town development side on Wednesday.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Steavens, Brown (Wright 46), Charlton (Adams 64), Shaw (c) (Morse 71), Wokoma, Thompson, Daly (Lowe 58), Guy, Trialist (Foley 58), Mason (Turnbull 46), Alli (Gillies 58).
Goals: Mason (pen 41), Gillies (69).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
South Shields and Cleethorpes Town are set to renew their friendly rivalry as they compete for the Jak Fada Memorial Trophy this summer.
A pre-season match is to take place between the sides at Mariners Park on Saturday, July 13. It will kick-off at 3pm.
It will be the fourth meeting between the clubs in just over two years, after they first locked horns in the final of the FA Vase at Wembley Stadium in May 2017.
On and since that momentous occasion, the two clubs have built a strong friendship, with Cleethorpes supporters offering real solidarity following the tragic death of 10-year-old Shields fan Jak Fada in November 2017.
Supporters of the Owls suggested earlier this year that a memorial match in honour of Jak should be held, and that has now been organised.
South Shields Managing Director Keith Finnigan said: “We very much look forward to welcoming Cleethorpes to Mariners Park this summer, particularly after they were such welcoming hosts for us during our pre-season programme last year.
“Matches between the two clubs are always strongly but fairly contested, and of course any meeting with Cleethorpes brings back great memories for us of our FA Vase victory at Wembley.
“The way Cleethorpes fans offered their sympathies and showed solidarity with our own supporters following the untimely passing of Jak was very touching to see, and it’s great to see just how strong the friendship between the clubs and two sets of supporters is.
“It should be a memorable occasion in memory of Jak, who we hold so closely to our hearts.
“It will be our pleasure to welcome Cleethorpes and we hope both sets of supporters enjoy the day.”
This is the second confirmed fixture of Shields’ pre-season schedule.
A Huddersfield Town development side will also visit Mariners Park on Wednesday, July 17.
The fixture was agreed as part of the deal which took Shields academy graduate Will McCamley to Huddersfield earlier this month.
A second half double from Gavin Cogdon was not enough for South Shields as they fell to defeat in their final pre-season outing on Saturday.
The Mariners were beaten 4-2 at Cleethorpes Town in a rematch of the 2017 FA Vase final at the Linden Club.
It was a disappointing afternoon all-round for Shields, who will be hoping for a much-improved performance in their Evo-Stik Premier Division opener against Witton Albion next Saturday.
There were some positive signs for Shields early in Saturday’s game, although the first sight of goal went to the hosts, with Danny North having a decent effort saved.
The Mariners more than matched Cleethorpes in the opening stages, though, and some good interplay between Cogdon and Robert Briggs led to a shot from the latter which went over.
Clee carried a threat throughout the game, and almost opened the scoring in the 12th minute when left-back Tom Davie fizzed a low ball across the box, only for it to just evade a vital touch.
Shields started to gather some momentum midway through the first half, with their next opportunity coming when they won possession high up the pitch and Carl Finnigan found Cogdon, who had an effort saved.
Finnigan went close himself soon after when Josh Gillies played a ball across the area, but the striker was just unable to stretch enough to force it home.
Another chance came when Craig Baxter led a counter-attack from a Cleethorpes set-piece and played it to Blair Adams, who fired over.
The hosts struck twice in three minutes late in the half to force their way into the ascendancy.
Captain Alex Flett opened the scoring when he received the ball in space 25 yards from goal and picked out the bottom corner with a fine effort.
The lead was doubled soon after when North won the ball on the right, brought it inside, rounded the goalkeeper and kept his composure to finish.
Shields were unable to fight back early in the second half, with the home side having the first attempt when a strike from Flett cleared the crossbar.
Cleethorpes were awarded a penalty in the 56th minute when Shields substitute Chris Hunter was adjudged to have fouled North in the box, and the striker picked himself up to rattle in his second goal of the game from the spot.
The Mariners almost hit back within a minute after some good work from Dan Wright on the right. He slid a ball through for Cogdon, whose shot was pushed behind by goalkeeper Dylan Parkin.
From the resulting corner, Shields pulled a goal back when the ball was half-cleared to Gillies on the right. His cross fell perfectly onto the head of Cogdon, who guided it home.
Shields tried to use that as a springboard and did have opportunities to get back in the game.
Briggs sent an audacious effort not far wide from 35 yards and Cogdon headed wide after a cross from Baxter.
The Mariners went even closer when a Gillies free-kick was deflected just past the post, but Cleethorpes recovered from that difficult spell to see out their victory.
Lewis Collins had an effort saved and Dillon Morse produced a tremendous block to deny Scott Vernon as the hosts pushed for a fourth.
They got it with six minutes left as Josh Batty thrashed home a free-kick from 20 yards to spark more home celebrations.
Shields kept fighting until the end, and went close to scoring their second when Karl Ross pulled the ball back to Max Cowburn, who curled an effort over.
Cogdon grabbed his second as the game ticked into stoppage time as he dribbled the ball around the goalkeeper before finishing well.
Shields now have two training sessions to prepare for next Saturday’s opening league game at home to Witton Albion.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Trialist, Baxter, Adams, Lough (Hunter 46), Morse, Turnbull (Trialist 57), Wright (Ross 70), Briggs (c), Cogdon, Finnigan (Cowburn 70), Gillies. Sub not used: Naisbett.
Goals: Cogdon (57, 90).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.