South Shields’ pre-season programme ended with a narrow defeat at Gateshead on Saturday.
In a game of few chances, Jack Hunter headed in the only goal for the National League North side midway through the second half.
Shields had defeated Gateshead’s divisional rivals York City 3-0 four days earlier, but were unable to find the same rhythm in this behind closed doors game.
There was little in the way of goalmouth action in the first half and the closest either side came was a Jordan Preston effort for the home team which was parried by Myles Boney, who also kept out the rebound from Greg Olley.
George Smith was a lively presence on the left flank for the Heed and saw plenty of the ball, with one of his crosses sent wide by Olley while he headed another opportunity wide himself.
Gateshead’s Nicky Deverdics and Shields’ Nathan Lowe were both off target with efforts from distance before the half-time whistle, which gave both sides an opportunity to regroup and improve their attacking purpose.
The Mariners had some bright moments in the early stages of the second half but fell behind in the 63rd minute.
Deverdics curled in a dangerous corner from the right and Hunter stole a march on his marker to head in at the near post.
It would prove to be the winner, although Shields did press gamely for an equaliser in the closing stages after introducing a number of substitutes.
One of them, Lee Mason, went agonsingly close to bringing his side level 14 minutes before the end.
Josh Gillies provided him with the ball outside the box on the left and he got it out of his feet before whipping a shot against the crossbar.
Darius Osei was another player brought on by the Mariners as he got some much-needed minutes in the tank, and he was a dangerous presence in the closing stages.
He had half a chance to equalise towards the end when Craig Baxter found him in the penalty area, but after a fine turn he was denied by a block as Gateshead preserved their clean sheet.
Former Shields midfielder Matty Pattison was brought on by Gateshead and he had the home side’s final attempt, with his effort from distance comfortably clearing Boney’s crossbar.
There was to be no late leveller for Shields, though, as a unique pre-season was brought to an end.
The Mariners will kick-off their Northern Premier League campaign at home to Mickleover on Saturday.
With Shields restricted to a capacity of 600 at 1st Cloud Arena, ticket details are awaited in the coming days, although it is anticipated only season ticket holders and an allocation of away supporters will be in attendance at this stage.
South Shields:: Boney, Hunter, Baxter, Ross (Turnbull 64), Morse (Agnew 77), Brown (Shaw 66), Kempster (Mason 71), Briggs (c) (Verstraaten 64), Gilchrist (Osei 64), Lowe (Thompson 64), Gillies (Jenkins 77). Subs not used: Coombe, McCamley, Hodgson.
Image: Kev Wilson.
South Shields complete their pre-season games programme with a short trip to Gateshead on Saturday (1pm kick-off).
The match is being held behind closed doors at Gateshead International Stadium and the home club will be providing a live stream at a cost of £5, which can be accessed by clicking here.
The Mariners go into the game in fine fettle, having defeated Gateshead’s National League North rivals York City 3-0 on Tuesday.
Graham Fenton and Lee Picton’s side will kick-off their Northern Premier League campaign a week on Saturday with a home game against Mickleover.
After consecutive three-goal wins, against Marske United and York, Shields are looking for more progression tomorrow against Mike Williamson’s men.
Fenton said: “The York game saw us produce comfortably our best performance of pre-season so far and we were really delighted with it.
“Since losing to Stockton last month we have progressed well against both Marske and York, and we’re looking for further progression on Saturday.
“York was a good night’s work but we’re definitely not getting carried away with it.
“It was a pre-season game and York are early in their preparations as a new group.
“It was a pleasing night but we’re not getting complacent.”
Saturday’s game will be held behind closed doors, with clubs at National League North level and above currently not allowed to permit spectators at home games.
Shields, though, are able to host maximum capacities of 600 at present.
A capacity crowd of 600 cheered the Mariners to their victory over York, which gave Fenton and Picton plenty to think about.
Fenton said: “We’ve got real competition for places.
“The lads who come on are really trying to prove a point, which is fantastic for us.
“If we get into a position where we have to leave lads out of the squad who we know are good enough to get in the team, it’s difficult for us but only healthy for the squad.
“If they keep pushing each other on we’re going to be in a fantastic place.”
Kick-off in Saturday’s game is at 1pm.
South Shields deservedly progressed to the final qualifying round of the FA Youth Cup on Monday with a come from behind win over Gateshead at Mariners Park.
Shields were unfortunate to go in at half-time a goal down and responded superbly after the break to win the second qualifying round tie 3-1.
Ethan Biwer, Bailey Judson and Michael Colquhoun scored the all-important goals as Gateshead became the young Mariners’ third victims in this season’s competition, after Stockton Town and Spennymoor Town.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton’s side were bright and energetic throughout, but Gateshead challenged them with a high-energy game of their own, particularly in the early stages.
They struggled to cope with the talent of Judson on Shields’ left, though, and he was at the centre of much of the hosts’ attacking play.
The Mariners’ first effort was a shot from distance from Callum Carney which was comfortably saved, and Judson was also denied by goalkeeper Jak Wright as the home side searched for the breakthrough.
Gateshead went close to opening the scoring on 27 minutes when a corner from the right by Harvey Dickson was headed narrowly wide by James Cooper.
The visitors did take the lead soon after when a ball over the top took an awkward bounce and presented Jack McNally with a great opportunity. He made no mistake as he fired into an empty net.
Shields’ response was superb and they had several chances to equalise before half-time.
Will McCamley headed a presentable opportunity wide from a Carney cross, while Colquhoun almost got fortunate when a defensive clearance cannoned against him before bouncing past the post.
Judson was next to go close as he drove through midfield, skipping past two challenges before firing an effort just over from range.
Another chance came and went when Sam Hodgson’s header from a Judson cross was saved by Wright, and the Shields forward turned a further effort wide as the hosts continued to be frustrated.
On the stroke of the break, Biwer’s shot from the edge of the area was kept out impressively by Wright and the half-time whistle will have been a relief for Gateshead as they were given an opportunity to regroup.
Shields did not let up in the second half, though.
They came out of the blocks brilliantly well and almost equalised when Biwer fizzed a ball across the box which Colquhoun just could not stretch enough to turn home.
The young Mariners finally got their reward just before the hour mark when captain Biwer’s effort from the edge of the box took a deflection before nestling in the centre of the net.
McCamley went close to putting the hosts ahead when he cut inside from the right before firing over, before Shields were handed a golden opportunity when Hodgson was fouled in the area and the referee pointed to the spot.
Judson took the responsibility and rolled the ball home to give the home side the lead for the first time.
The Mariners were brimming with confidence now and only an acrobatic save by Wright kept the score at 2-1 as he tipped a Jordan Patterson volley over the bar.
Wright injured himself in the process and had to be replaced. After a long delay, the resulting corner was diverted goalwards and bounced narrowly over the crossbar.
Shields did double their advantage with 14 minutes left when Judson forced the ball through to Colquhoun, whose shot was too hot to handle for substitute goalkeeper Alex Doxford before finding the corner of the net.
Judson almost added his second of the night soon after, but his effort was superbly cleared off the line.
The Mariners continued their impressive play as a terrific free-kick from the right by Josh Elcoate was flicked on by Adam Onarbay and just cleared the crossbar.
One final chance came and went in stoppage time when substitute Dom Minchella curled in a superb cross from the right which was deflected against the bar by a defender.
Shields now eagerly await the draw for the third qualifying round.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Bramley, Yembe, Lockey, Carney (Elcoate 53), Patterson, Onarbay, McCamley (Minchella 83), Biwer (c), Colquhoun, S Hodgson (Ames 83), Judson. Subs not used: E Hodgson, Croft.
Goals: Biwer (59), Judson (pen 66), Colquhoun (76).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.