On a day when South Shields said farewell to club legend Barrie Smith, a new arrival stole the show as Jason Gilchrist scored a hat-trick in an entertaining 4-2 win over Dunston.
Smith pulled on the claret and blue shirt for one last time in the pre-season friendly and was given a tremendous reception as his nine years of superb service to the Mariners was recognised.
Shields went behind twice in the first half at Mariners Park, with a Gilchrist goal sandwiched in between.
Gilchrist scored twice more after the break, after a deflected effort from distance by Nathan Lowe had brought the home side level.
The Mariners went into the game without a number of players, with Liam Connell, Blair Adams, Jon Shaw, Phil Turnbull, Josh Gillies, Myles Boney, Craig Baxter, Callum Guy and Lee Mason all unavailable for selection.
The visitors opened the scoring in just the fourth minute as Liam Marrs sent in a teasing low cross from the right which Michael Pearson was able to nudge home in the six-yard box.
Shields threatened an equaliser when a Robert Briggs shot from 25 yards whistled over the crossbar, and gradually found their feet.
They got back on level terms on 20 minutes when Smith helped to win possession deep in the Dunston half and in the confusion which followed, the ball eventually fell to the feet of Gilchrist, who made no mistake from close range.
Smith was withdrawn to a standing ovation in the 23rd minute as fans, players and staff were given the opportunity to show their appreciation for a player who won six trophies and made over 300 appearances during his nine years with the Mariners.
Luke Daly had an opportunity to put the Mariners into the lead when he weaved his way through from the right and rounded goalkeeper Karl Dryden, but he sent his effort from a tight angle into the side netting.
Adam Thurston and Gary Brown both had attempts from distance as the game neared half-time but Dunston retook the lead four minutes before the break as Liam Brooks turned in the penalty area before picking out the bottom corner.
Shields built up some momentum early in the second half and equalised just before the hour mark when Briggs rolled a free-kick into the feet of Lowe, whose long range piledriver took a huge deflection before nestling in the opposite corner.
The Mariners went on to enjoy their best spell and almost went ahead as a sweet strike from Brown was deflected wide.
Thurston also went close with a similar effort but Shields eventually got their reward when Daly’s corner from the right was headed across the area by substitute Millenic Alli before being nodded in by Gilchrist from close range.
More chances came and went for the home side, who did double their lead in the 73rd minute as a defensive clearance fell to the feet of Gilchrist, who took the ball round Dryden before completing his hat-trick with a composed finish.
Dan Wright almost added to the scoring soon after when he got on the end of a Gilchrist cross, but his header narrowly cleared the crossbar.
Smith was reintroduced with 10 minutes left to another rapturous reception and Lowe almost scored Shields’ fifth during his time on the pitch, but his effort from the edge of the box flashed wide.
Shields will complete their pre-season schedule with a trip to Ossett United next Saturday.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Coombe, Smith (c) (Wokoma 23), Charlton (Lockey 80), Lowe, Morse (Trialist 67), Brown (Smith 80), Daly (Wright 73), Briggs (Thompson 67), Gilchrist, Thurston (Biwer 73), Foley (Alli 49).
Goals: Gilchrist (20, 64, 72), Lowe (59).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
Jason Gilchrist and Millenic Alli both got off the mark for South Shields as they netted their first goals for the club in an entertaining pre-season win at Hebburn Town on Tuesday.
Gilchrist scored twice and Alli netted the other as the Mariners went in at half-time 3-1 ahead, and Luke Daly got on the scoresheet in the second half as the away side won 4-3.
It was a decent response to Saturday’s 6-0 defeat at Guiseley for Shields as they returned to winning ways.
Graham Fenton and Lee Picton named a strong side for the South Tyneside derby, with captain Jon Shaw among those to return to the starting line-up.
They were rewarded for a crisp start when they took the lead in just the third minute, with Robert Briggs delivering an inch-perfect corner from the right which was powerfully headed into the corner of the net by Gilchrist.
The advantage was doubled three minutes later when a David Foley cross from the right was dropped by goalkeeper Andrew Jennison, with Alli on hand to turn the loose ball home.
The Hornets pulled one back in the eighth minute as the frantic start to the game continued. The lively Jack Elliott ran down the left flank and delivered a low cross which former Shields striker Graeme Armstrong converted from close range.
Another former Mariner, Michael Richardson, fired over from distance before Shields restored their two-goal lead on the half hour mark.
Foley rolled the ball into the feet of Gilchrist on the inside-left of the box and he turned his man before burying an unstoppable effort into the bottom corner.
Hebburn almost netted their second two minutes before half-time when Elliott got in behind on the left and fired a ball across the box which was met first time by Ben Dibb-Fuller, but Shields goalkeeper Myles Boney brilliantly denied him from point-blank range.
They had another chance to reduce the deficit early in the second half, but this time Elliott rifled a shot over after weaving his way through.
The Hornets did find the net again on the hour mark in bizarre circumstances as Richardson stole the ball in the penalty area, turned and fired past Boney.
He went close to adding his second and levelling the scores soon after, but this time his free-kick from 25 yards went not far wide.
The chances continued to come at both ends and Shields converted their next one, with Gilchrist carrying the ball through the centre and releasing Daly on the inside-right of the area before he beat Jennison.
A third former Shields player, Louis Storey, pulled another goal back eight minutes before the end for Hebburn but the hosts were unable to force an equaliser in the closing stages.
The Mariners will continue their pre-season preparations on Saturday when they host Dunston in a farewell game for club legend Barrie Smith.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Brown (Thompson 64), Adams (Charlton 74), Shaw (c) (Wokoma 52), Trialist, Briggs (Lowe 69), Foley (Daly 46), Thurston, Gilchrist, Mason (Turnbull 69), Alli (Wright 46).
Goals: Gilchrist (3, 30), Alli (6), Daly (72).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.
Striker Jason Gilchrist has become South Shields’ latest summer signing after joining on a permanent deal from National League North side Southport.
The 24-year-old has been a prolific goalscorer throughout his young career to date, and was the National League North’s top scorer in the 2017-18 season, when he netted 26 times.
South Shields joint manager Lee Picton said: “We are delighted to bring Jason to the club.
“He is someone we have tracked for a while and he has a proven goalscoring record at this level and higher.
“We feel he is a great fit for what we are looking for moving forwards at the club.
“We’re really confident he will suit our style of play, and have been very impressed with him as a person during the conversations we have had with him.”
Gilchrist came through the Manchester City youth system and played for the club for 10 years after joining at the age of six.
He then moved on to Burnley, scoring over 50 goals in three seasons for the Clarets’ development teams.
Senior football followed for the striker at Droylsden, Accrington Stanley and Chester before FC United of Manchester swooped to sign him in the summer of 2016.
He scored 29 goals in 15 months before moving onto Southport in November 2017, a season which he would end as the league’s top goalscorer.
Gilchrist spent the tail end of last season with Stockport County, who won the National League North title during his time at the club.
Welcome to South Shields, Jason!
Picture courtesy of Southport FC.