South Shields ended pre-season in positive fashion with a deserved 2-1 win at Whitby Town on Saturday.
First half goals from summer signings Jamie Holmes and Luke Sullivan were enough for the Mariners against their EVO-STIK Premier Division opponents.
The goals were split by an equaliser from former Shields midfielder David Carson for the hosts.
The Mariners deserved their win, though, and now have a week to prepare for their EVO-STIK North opener at Trafford.
They will go into that game in confident mood after a pre-season which saw them defeat two sides from higher levels – FC United of Manchester and Whitby – as well as draw with Gateshead and Blyth Spartans, both National League outfits.
Saturday’s performance was one of their best of pre-season, as they got the better of a side which narrowly missed out on the play-offs last term.
Sullivan had the ball in the net twice in the first 12 minutes as he searched for his first goal in Shields colours, but twice he was denied by the assistant referee’s flag for offsides earlier in the moves.
The Mariners broke the deadlock in the 13th minute through Holmes, who had signed his contract to join the club less than an hour earlier.
Matty Pattison fed Alex Nicholson on the right and he drove inside before his impressive ball through was met with an equally superb run by Holmes towards the inside-right of the box. He clipped the ball beyond home goalkeeper Shane Bland and it kissed the post before nestling in the net.
It took just three minutes for Whitby to get back on level terms. Carson angled a free-kick from just outside the box into the bottom corner, with Shields goalkeeper Liam Connell unsighted by a Whitby player at the end of the wall.
Both teams had decent spells and opportunities, the best of which fell the way of Holmes after a good ball through by Sullivan. This time, though, Bland was equal to it as he pushed it to safety.
Connell was solid between the sticks for the Mariners and kept out two efforts from Michael Roberts, who also volleyed wide after good play down the right from Carson.
Shields came on strong, and should have taken the lead when the ball ricocheted into the path of Michael Richardson in the penalty area, but he snatched at his shot and it flew over.
Less than a minute later, the Mariners were awarded a penalty when a desperate challenge by a home defender saw Pattison brought down in the area.
With Carl Finnigan unavailable, Sullivan took responsibility for the spot-kick, and gave Bland no chance as he rattled his effort to the goalkeeper’s left and found the corner.
Jon Shaw headed a decent opportunity over from a Pattison corner, while Sullivan had a shot from distance deflected wide as the away side searched for a third.
They almost got it when Robert Briggs unlocked the Whitby defence with a brilliant pass through for Nicholson, but although he got there first, Bland managed to get a touch in it, pushing the ball against the legs of the Shields man before it trickled out for a goal kick.
Pattison had a better opportunity a minute before half-time, but was unable to get clean contact on it as the Blues survived.
Shields were not at quite the same level as the second half progressed and legs tired, but were still well worth their victory.
Chances were few and far between after the break, with Whitby having the better of them. One of them looked set to fall the way of Matthew Tymon after a mistake from Shaw, but he rectified his error by racing back and making a potentially goal-saving tackle.
The best opportunity of the half fell to Tymon after he was picked out by a superb Danny McWilliams cross, but he could only head wide.
Shields saw out the game to claim a 2-1 victory, and although results matter little in pre-season, they will go to Trafford full of confidence.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell (Trialist 56), Baxter, Lough (Trialist 73), Shaw (c), Morse (Callaghan 56), Briggs (Storey 46), Nicholson (Stephenson 52), Pattison (Richardson 84), Holmes, Richardson (Trialist 73), Sullivan.
Goals: Holmes (13), Sullivan (pen 28).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.
The club can confirm it has parted company with midfielder David Carson.
The working relationship between management and the player had deteriorated recently, and it was decided it was in the best interests of both parties to go their separate ways.
We wish David all the best in his future endeavours.
South Shields were dominant as they secured a third home win in a week with a crushing 6-0 beating of Guisborough Town on Saturday.
The Mariners were 3-0 up within a quarter of an hour against a Guisborough side currently sitting bottom of Northern League Division One, with two Robert Briggs goals sandwiching a strike from David Carson.
They pressed forward their advantage as Julio Arca and Carl Finnigan got on the scoresheet, before debutant Adam Wrightson finished it off when he netted just 10 minutes after being brought on.
It was a superb team performance from the Mariners as they consolidated their second position in the table, having been in control from the start.
Finnigan had a half-chance within the first two minutes, and although the visitors scrambled the ball to safety, it did not delay the opening goal by too long.
It arrived in the fifth minute as David Foley got to the byline on the left and delivered a good cross which Briggs headed into the top corner.
Shields were two up extremely quickly as Andrew Stephenson and Anthony Callaghan worked a short corner routine, and the former found Carson on the edge of the box before he took a shot which bounced in front of goalkeeper James Dawson and nestled in the bottom corner.
Opportunities for Guisborough were very limited, but Liam Connell was on hand to keep out the efforts which were on target.
Foley had a goal ruled out for offside before the Mariners effectively put the game to bed on 15 minutes.
It was a terrific team effort as Carson found Briggs on the edge of the box and he played an impressive give and go with Finnigan before touching the ball beyond a defender and then sliding it past Dawson for his 10th goal of the season.
Later in the first half, Dawson did well to deny Foley and Craig Baxter, before Shields were awarded a penalty when Danny Carson’s shot was charged down and was adjudged by the referee to have struck the hand of Guisborough’s Chris Youldon.
Arca’s spot-kick was parried by Dawson back into the path of the midfielder, and he made no mistake the second time as he tucked it home.
The one-way traffic continued, but Shields were unable to add further to their advantage in the remainder of the first half, with the closest they came when David Carson curled an effort not far wide from distance.
Teenage winger Wrightson – who joined on loan from Gateshead on the eve of the match – came on at the interval in place of David Carson, and immediately looked at home as he produced an energetic display.
He was involved in goal number five within four minutes of the restart as his pressing forced a mistake and Briggs then delivered a magnificent, firm ball through the centre for Finnigan, who controlled with his chest before slamming it into the bottom corner.
Wrightson got in on the act himself soon after when Stephenson took control of the ball on the edge of the box, waited for his team-mate to run beyond him into space and then found him, before the teenager hooked it in.
Shields were rampant and Briggs so nearly claimed his hat-trick when he ghosted past a defender and then saw his effort strike the post via a touch from the goalkeeper.
Foley was kept off the scoresheet by Dawson as he made a good save, while Briggs again went close to his third when he thrashed a shot narrowly over from the edge of the box.
In the end, the Mariners could not add to their six goals, but it remained an excellent afternoon for Graham Fenton and Lee Picton’s side as they kicked off the second half of their league campaign in style.
They are next in action next Saturday, when they take on Dunston UTS at Mariners Park from 3pm.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Callaghan, Shaw (Smith 73), Danny Carson, Arca (c), Briggs, Stephenson, Finnigan (Phillips 61), David Carson (Wrightson 46), Foley. Subs not used: Riding, Ramsey.
Goals: Briggs (5, 15), David Carson (6), Arca (36), Finnigan (49), Wrightson (55).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.