South Shields’ Under-18s will begin their bid to emulate last season’s achievements in the FA Youth Cup when they travel to Consett on Thursday.
The young Mariners memorably reached the third round of the competition in 2019-20, beating the likes of Harrogate Town, Morecambe and Hartlepool United before falling at the hands of a richly talented Fulham side.
Jon Shaw and Wess Brown’s team will again start in the preliminary round in 2020-21 as they travel to Consett, whose first-team reached the final of the FA Vase at the weekend.
The match will take place at Belle View (DH8 7BF) and is set to kick-off at 7.30pm, with admission costing £2 for adults and £1 for concessions.
The winners will travel to North Shields – who the Mariners defeated on their run to round three last season – in the first qualifying round.
South Shields returned to action with a win as they began their pre-season programme against Consett at Mariners Park on Friday.
New signing Josh Gillies and midfielder Dan Lowther were on target as the Mariners defeated their Northern League opponents 2-1.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton fielded a side which included Gillies and fellow new boy Phil Turnbull, and they started brightly as they gained control of possession.
A trialist went close to giving the hosts the lead in the eighth minute when he brilliantly tricked his way past a defender on the inside-left of the box before curling a shot over.
Gillies showed his quality with a through ball to Michael Richardson soon after, but the midfielder saw his effort blocked.
Shields kept up the pressure and got their reward on 17 minutes when Carl Finnigan laid the ball off to Gillies, who kept his composure and slotted home from 12 yards.
Turnbull tested visiting goalkeeper Ross Coombes with a drive from the edge of the box later in the half, but the Consett youngster was equal to the effort as he pushed it away.
At the other end, Liam Connell kept out two long-range attempts by Calvin Smith, and the closest Shields came to extending their lead before half-time came when Richardson fizzed a low shot across the box which just evaded a touch.
The Mariners changed their entire team at half-time, with Gary Brown and Chris Hunter among those brought on as they made their first appearances for the club.
A trialist twice went close to extending the home side’s lead, and Matty Pattison was one of the main bright sparks as he started pre-season in sharp form.
Some good work by Pattison on the right led to a chance for youngster Arron Thompson, but his shot was flicked off the line.
Consett did have some bright moments, and striker Michael Sweet may have thought he had equalised when his sweet strike arrowed towards goal, but Brown was on hand to brilliantly block and clear the danger.
Less than a minute later, Shields doubled their lead as Pattison again caught the eye by keeping possession and then teasing the ball past the defence to Lowther, who rolled it into the bottom corner.
Pattison and Lowther had opportunities to make it three but the Mariners did not find the mark again.
In the end, it was Consett who had the final say as Josh Gray picked out the bottom corner with the final kick of the game.
SOUTH SHIELDS (first half): Connell, Baxter, Trialist, Lough, Morse, Turnbull, Richardson, Smith (c), Finnigan, Trialist, Gillies.
SOUTH SHIELDS (second half): Stephenson, Hunter, Cooper, Shaw, Brown, Ross, Pattison, Thompson, Lowther, Trialist, Cowburn.
Goals: Gillies (17), Lowther (69).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
South Shields will take on Consett and Tadcaster Albion as part of their preparations for the 2018-19 Evo-Stik Premier Division season.
Friendlies against Blyth Spartans and Cleethorpes Town, as well as the club’s participation in the South Shields FC International Tournament with Celtic, Marseille and Southampton’s Under-23 sides, were announced earlier this month.
The club can now confirm that its pre-season schedule will begin with a home fixture against Northern League outfit Consett on Friday, July 13.
The clubs struck up a friendship over many years of competition in the Northern League, and last met in April 2017, when Shields won 1-0 at Mariners Park on their way to winning the league title.
A trip to Tadcaster Albion, who the Mariners came up against in the 2017-18 Evo-Stik North Division campaign, has also been added to the pre-season programme.
Shields will visit the i2i Stadium on Saturday, August 4 in what is due to be their penultimate friendly of the summer.
An additional pre-season game is expected to be announced soon, and it is due to take place on Tuesday, July 24 at Mariners Park.
Here is the club’s pre-season schedule so far:
Friday, July 13: Consett (H)
Saturday, July 21: Blyth Spartans (H)
Tuesday, July 24: TBC (H)
Saturday, July 28: Southampton Under-23s (H) – South Shields FC International Tournament (PURCHASE TICKETS BY CLICKING HERE)
Sunday, July 29: Celtic Under-23s or Marseille Under-23s (H) – South Shields FC International Tournament (PURCHASE TICKETS BY CLICKING HERE)
Saturday, August 4: Tadcaster Albion (A)
Saturday, August 11: Cleethorpes Town (A)