Sam Hodgson slammed home the winner as South Shields completed a quickfire turnaround to end pre-season on a high with a pulsating win over Gateshead at 1st Cloud Arena.
Hodgson converted a Darius Osei cross three minutes after captain Robert Briggs had equalised for the Mariners as they got the better of their National League North opponents with a 2-1 victory.
Former Newcastle United youngster Adam Campbell had fired Gateshead into a first half lead but Shields displayed impressive poise to claim the win with their two goals just after the midway point of the second half.
The hosts – lining up in a 5-3-2 formation – started brightly and created an early opportunity as Conor Tee manouevred his way into a crossing position on the left and delivered the ball onto the head of Alex Kempster, whose effort was saved by Jacob Chapman.
They fell behind in the 10th minute, though, as Gateshead pressed high to win possession and Cedwyn Scott squared to Adam Campbell, who rifled home from 12 yards.
Graham Fenton will have been delighted with the way his side responded to the opening goal.
Nathan Lowe proved a thorn in Gateshead’s side and his effort from distance was parried by Chapman to begin a period of pressure from the hosts as they probed for an equaliser.
Lowe’s free-kick less than a minute later dropped to the feet of Alex Kempster, who had a shot deflected wide, while Dillon Morse’s header from the resulting corner was blocked.
Jon Shaw thought he had levelled moments later as he headed home against his former club, but the offside flag denied the player-joint assistant manager.
Shields were left scratching their heads as to how they failed to level the scores on 16 minutes when Chapman brilliantly kept out Shaw’s header from a Lowe corner and the rebound was powered towards goal by the head of Morse but cleared off the line by Macaulay Langstaff.
The Heed weathered the storm and went in search of a sucker punch at the other end, which they twice went close to delivering.
First Greg Olley picked out Ryan Wombwell with a teasing free-kick from the left, but the defender could only hook the ball over from an inviting position at the back post.
The away side then went closer as Olley slid in Langstaff and his low strike was destined to find the bottom of the net before Shaw raced back to block superbly.
A strong appeal for a Shields penalty was waved away 12 minutes before half-time when Massanka and Jordan Hunter combined down the right and the latter’s cross was arrowing towards the head of substitute Robert Briggs, who appeared to be bundled over. The referee waved play on and Blair Adams sent the loose ball over the bar.
Massanka, Hunter and Shaw were all denied by blocks as the first half ticked into stoppage time but the Mariners were sent into the interval with a harsh one-goal deficit.
Shields created a decent chance for an equaliser in the 56th minute when Adams fired a dangerous ball across the area from the left. It arrived quickly at Massanka, though, and he was unable to turn it home.
Myles Boney kept the deficit at one with an excellent save as the game ticked onto the hour mark. Scott was released down the left of the box for the visitors and his powerful low effort appeared certain to double his side’s lead, but Boney spread himself well to superbly deny him with his outstretched left foot.
Langstaff slid a low shot past the post in Gateshead’s next attack after linking up with Bailey, but the introduction of Lowe and Sam Hodgson proved pivotal for the Mariners midway through the second half.
First Hodgson forced a corner with some tireless running and then Lowe took full advantage of it, drilling a superb free-kick into the near post area which Briggs met with a powerful header that Chapman was unable to keep out.
Shields completed a three-minute turnaround as the four-figure crowd played their part by notching up the noise.
Darius Osei motored in down the left of the area and fired an excellent ball across the box which Hodgson sent flying into the roof of the net.
The Mariners were playing with supreme confidence and had opportunities to seal a fine win, with Chapman saving well from Osei at the near post from a Lowe free-kick before denying the same player moments later after some terrific pressing presented him with a one-on-one chance.
The failure to force a third goal did not cost Shields, though, as they saw out the remaining minutes to defeat Mike Williamson’s side.
They now have a week to prepare for their opening Pitching In Northern Premier League match against Mickleover at 1st
South Shields: Boney, Hunter (Jenkins 77) Adams (c) (Kempster 77), Shaw (Morse 67), Morse (Trialist 46), Trialist (Bodenham 25), Kempster (Osei 32), Ross (Lowe 67), Massanka (Hodgson 67), Lowe (Tee 46), Tee (Briggs 25). Subs not used: Steavens, Agnew, McGowan, Rossiter.
Goals: Briggs (71), Hodgson (74).
Attendance: 1,148 (139 Gateshead).
Image: Kev Wilson.
South Shields bring their pre-season to a close as they welcome Gateshead to 1st Cloud Arena on Saturday (3pm kick-off).
Tickets for the game remain available, with Shields supporters able to purchase by clicking here and Gateshead fans asked to follow the link provided on their club’s website. Cash will be accepted at home turnstiles on matchday but away supporters must purchase tickets in advance, with the full details available by clicking here. Advance tickets will be available until 12pm on matchday.
Both sides look in impressive shape heading into 2021-22, with Shields having won four of their five first-team pre-season matches, while Gateshead have been victorious in all six of theirs.
Mariners manager Graham Fenton is pleased with how his team is shaping up, despite last Saturday’s 3-2 reverse at home to Marske United.
He feels Mike Williamson’s Tynesiders are the ideal final opponents for Shields ahead of the new campaign.
Fenton said: “Gateshead will definitely open the game up and try to play, so it should be an entertaining one for the fans who come along and watch.
“The Marske game was probably a good dress rehearsal as they play in a similar way to Gateshead.
“It will be really interesting to see how we get on and whether we can build on some of the tactical elements we showed in the second half against Marske.
“We want to finish pre-season with a win but we know it’s not going to be easy.”
Jack Bodenham is in contention to make his first appearance in claret and blue after the former Cardiff City defender joined the club on Friday, subject to receiving FA clearance.
Bodenham and his new Shields team-mates are expecting a stern test against Gateshead, whose most recent outing was a superb 4-1 win over Newcastle United’s Under-23s. The Heed count former Mariners defenders Louis Storey and Alex Nicholson among their ranks.
As with any pre-season fixture, Saturday will be less about the result and more about fitness levels and patterns of play, but Fenton has stressed the importance of a strong performance as he finalises his plans for next weekend’s league opener against Mickleover.
He added: “We’re looking for players to command their place in the starting line-up for the game against Mickleover next week.
“There have been some really pleasing aspects of play recently, interspersed with some poor bits of play, but you’re always going to get that at this stage, particularly after such a long lay-off.
“I think that most teams will be the same in the early part of the season, with rustiness and mistakes an inevitability when the majority of us haven’t played a competitive game in the calendar year.
“We just have to make sure we’re in the best shape possible and that’s why pre-season games like this one are so important.”
Saturday’s game will kick-off at 3pm and the two sets of supporters will be segregated.
Gateshead fans – who must purchase tickets in advance – will be able to enter the ground through turnstiles 3 and 4, with turnstiles 1, 2, 5 and 6 designated for home supporters, who will be able to pay at the gate but are strongly advised to secure their tickets ahead of the game to ease queuing and ensure a quicker entry to the ground.
Tickets are priced at £6 for adults, £4 for students and over-65s, and £2 for under-16s.
The turnstiles will open at 12.30pm and entertainment will be available for Shields fans after the match in the Barbour Lounge, with singer Michael Stevens set to perform.
Another impressive pre-season attendance is expected at 1st Cloud Arena as South Shields complete their preparations for the 2021-22 campaign with a friendly against Gateshead on Saturday.
Supporters are advised to arrive at the ground as early as possible, with buying tickets in advance strongly recommended to ease queuing at the turnstiles.
The two sets of fans will be segregated, with Gateshead fans to enter the ground through turnstiles 3 and 4, which are situated on Shaftesbury Avenue at the end closest to the 3G pitch. Cash sales will not be available for away supporters, so Gateshead fans should purchase tickets in advance using the link posted on their club’s website. Any Gateshead fans identified in home sections will be removed from the ground.
South Shields fans can enter the ground through turnstiles 1 and 2 – situated on Shaftesbury Avenue – as well as turnstiles 5 and 6, which are by the underpass near the back of the 3G pitch. Home supporters will be able to pay for their entry at these turnstiles, but purchasing in advance is recommended to ease queuing and ensure quicker entry. Home tickets are available by clicking here.
Ticket prices are £6 for adults, £4 for students and over-65s, and £2 for under-16s.
All turnstiles will open at 12.30pm, with the game to kick-off at 3pm.
Several food outlets will be open from 12.30pm.
The Mariner Diner, which is a serving hatch located outside the clubhouse, will be the main food outlet for South Shields supporters.
The small hut situated next to the tunnel will sell refreshments, cakes and ice cream, while the black hut near the marquee will have pies, cold beers and refreshments available.
Gateshead supporters will be able to purchase hot food and refreshments from a burger van located within the away end.
Post-match entertainment will be available in the Barbour Lounge, with singer Michael Stevens set to perform from 5pm.
Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to seeing you on Saturday.
Up The Mariners!