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.