Nathan Lowe’s thunderbolt inside the first two minutes set South Shields on their way to a season-opening win over Mickleover on an uplifting afternoon at 1st Cloud Arena.

Lowe’s strike into the top corner was an emphatic way for Shields to return to competitive action before second half goals from Jon Shaw and Jason Gilchrist completed what proved to be a convincing victory.

Mickleover played their part in an at times feisty game but it was the Mariners who were smiling at the final whistle as they climbed to the top of an admittedly primitive Pitching In Northern Premier League table.

It may have been Shields’ first competitive game in more than six months but there was little evidence of rustiness in the opening stages.

Darius Osei fed Gilchrist down the right and when he looked inside for options, Lowe was screaming for the ball 25 yards from goal. Gilchrist duly played it into his path and his good friend leathered it into the top corner to kick-off the season in style.

The home side’s bright start continued and it was Gilchrist who remained chief creator, with his cross from the left sent narrowly wide by a looping header from Osei.

Osei went closer still to doubling Shields’ advantage before quarter of an hour had even been played as he drifted in from the right before belting a left-foot shot narrowly over the crossbar.

It took Mickleover some time to settle into the game but when they did, they demonstrated their ability to provide a real threat to the Shields back-line.

They almost equalised on the half-hour mark when Declan Bacon’s low ball into the box was half-cleared as far as Andrew Wright, whose well-struck effort hit the base of the post.

If that was a warning for the Mariners, they were fired another one soon after as Wright fizzed in a dangerous cross from the right but no team-mate was on hand to convert.

Mickleover’s strong end to the first half saw them continue to threaten a leveller and they created another decent chance when Alex Morris whipped in a cross which found the head of the experienced Stuart Beavon, but he was unable to trouble Myles Boney.

Shields came out strongly at the start of the second half and Josh Gillies forced visiting goalkeeper Callum Hawkins into action early on as his low strike from distance was beaten away.

Lowe almost doubled his tally for the afternoon in spectacular fashion with a powerful free-kick from the left of the box which just cleared the crossbar, although many in attendance had mistakenly thought the ball had looped in.

The match entered a scrappy period as both sides picked up a number of yellow cards, but Shields broke the resistance of the away side on 68 minutes as substitute Robert Briggs’ superb free-kick delivery from the left was met at the back post by Shaw, who guided it past Hawkins with a brilliant header.

The Mariners were well on their way to an opening-day victory but had to remain alert at the back and were fired another warning of Mickleover’s threat when Anam Verma played in substitute Jordan Walshaw and his powerful strike forced Boney into an impressive one-handed save.

The visitors were left scratching their heads as to how they had not pulled a goal back two minutes before the end when Ben Garing headed against the post before Dillon Morse denied Beavon with an acrobatic goal-line clearance and Boney brilliantly blocked from Patrick Webb as the clean sheet was preserved.

The final word ultimately belonged to Shields, who added a third goal in stoppage time.

Jordan Hunter beat Alex Morris on the right and he found Gilchrist, who tucked in his first goal of the season from close range after some typically impressive movement from the striker had left him in space.

It was a pleasing return to competitive football for Shields, who travel to Warrington Town on Tuesday as they get their Emirates FA Cup campaign underway.

South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams (Brown 75), Shaw (c), Morse, Ross, Gillies (Briggs 63), Baxter, Gilchrist, Lowe, Osei (Jenkins 77). Subs not used: Turnbull, Verstraaten.

Goals: Lowe (2), Shaw (68), Gilchrist (90+3).

Attendance: 600.

IMAGE: Kev Wilson.

South Shields players at first-team and Academy level have followed in the footsteps of supporters and club officials by donating to the Tickets To The Future initiative.

More than 500 season tickets for the 2020-21 campaign have now been snapped up after a surge in sales over recent days.

Over 80 of those are junior tickets which have been donated back to the club to distribute to deserving children ahead of the season, with the assistance of SSFC Foundation.

Club captain and Head of Professional Development Jon Shaw, centre-back Dillon Morse, goalkeeper Ross Coombe and teenage talents Will Jenkins and Sam Hodgson are among those to have donated tickets to the initiative.

Midfielder Nathan Lowe, meanwhile, donated a child AND adult season ticket, while Academy players Joe Lockey, Joe Ames, Aaron Steavens and Ben Errington all added tickets to the fund, as did Academy graduate Will McCamley, who is now with Huddersfield Town.

Jordan Hunter – who excelled on loan with the Mariners from Sunderland in the 2019-20 campaign – also provided two child season tickets.

He said: “I think everyone knows how much I loved the last season at the club.

“I donated because you can see how much the club means to the town and this initiative will help to get children through the gates who wouldn’t normally get the chance to, and gives them an opportunity to have that enjoyment on a Saturday afternoon.

“It has been great to see so many people get on board with it and hopefully it continues to go from strength to strength, and then next season those young fans can watch the team achieve the promotion we deserved to get this year.”

The Tickets To The Future initiative was kicked off by Shields supporter Jeff Bell, who lives in London. He purchased eight child season tickets for the 2020-21 campaign before donating them back to the club.

Jeff’s wish was for the tickets to be given to deserving children who would not usually have the opportunity to attend games at Mariners Park. The club has committed to working with SSFC Foundation to identify those children.

After Jeff’s generosity was publicised on social media, a host of other figures came forward to donate tickets.

Among them were club officials Bob and Viv Scott, Daniel Prince, Colin Docherty, Kev Wilson and Janet Davies.

One supporter, who wished to remain anonymous, donated 10 junior tickets on Friday and the total amount of donations is expected to exceed 100 in the coming days.

HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED

Those who would like to make a donation of either junior, concession or adult season tickets for the 2020-21 campaign – or indeed buy a season ticket for themselves – can do so in one of two ways.

Please call 0191 454 7800 between 9am and 5pm on weekdays to buy and donate over the phone, or click here to buy online. If you buy online and would like to donate your ticket(s), please follow up your purchase by sending an email signalling your intention to do so to info@southshieldsfc.co.uk.

Thank you for the continued outstanding support and we hope you and your family are staying safe and healthy.

During these uncertain and worrying times for people from all walks of life, South Shields Football Club is committed to giving the community a helping hand in whatever way it can.

Earlier this week, the club posted on social media that it was looking to help food banks in South Tyneside meet the demand for collections and deliveries over the coming weeks.

An approach was quickly made by Key 2 Life Food Bank, which is based at Boldon Lane Library in South Shields.

Key 2 Life is the longest-running food bank in South Tyneside and plays a crucial part in helping some of the most vulnerable people in the area. Last year the food bank gave out over 4,000 parcels.

On Friday, SSFC captain Jon Shaw, Business Development Manager Colin Docherty and Media Manager Daniel Prince joined Jo Benham Brown, who helps to oversee the volunteer-led food bank, and collected and delivered vital supplies which were paid for by generous donations from the public.

They then helped to unpack the supplies and make parcels at the food bank, and it is expected that members of the club will assist the volunteers on a regular basis moving forward.

Jon Shaw said: “At a time like this it’s important that we stick together as a community and if we as a club can help those in the most unfortunate positions we will.

“We’re all more than happy to commit time and effort over the coming weeks and months to support the families that need it the most.

“We know we’re only making a small dent on it but we will try to help as much as we can.

“Seeing the efforts people go to at the food bank on a voluntary basis is really humbling and inspiring for us all.

“We are happy to commit more time to helping out here not just in the immediate future but long-term as well.”

Jo Benham Brown, Business and Development Manager for Key Project, helps to oversee Key 2 Life at Boldon Lane Library.

She said: “We really appreciated the support at a time when we are struggling to get enough donations to feed families that are in crisis in South Shields.

“It was great to see the lads helping out at the food bank and the offer of more help over the coming weeks to support us is brilliant.

“We have lots of measures in place to ensure the food and supplies go to the most vulnerable and in need people in South Tyneside, and support like this is invaluable.”

Members of the public can help by bringing items to the food bank at Boldon Lane Library between 10am and 4pm, Monday to Friday.

Particular items which are needed at the moment are pasta sauce, UHT milk, tinned potatoes, tinned meals such as spaghetti bolognese, chilli and curry, toilet rolls and shower gel.