South Shields registered a victory in their first pre-season outing as new signing Ntumba Massanka netted the only goal at Newton Aycliffe on Tuesday.
Massanka’s smart turn and finish seven minutes from the end settled the match as the Mariners were able to enjoy playing in front of supporters for the first time since last December.
The fans who made the trip to County Durham will have been enthused by many aspects of Shields’ play, particularly the performances of debutants Massanka, Conor Tee and Will McGowan, who all showed glimpses of their quality.
Tee was the only member of that trio to start the game at the Beaumont Landscapes Stadium and he was in the action swiftly, delivering a cross from the right which Wouter Verstraaten guided goalwards only to be denied by the goalkeeper.
The away side dominated possession in the early exchanges as they showed few signs of rustiness, with Tee again at the heart of their probing in the 15th minute as he was found by Alex Kempster on the edge of the box but unable to seriously test the goalkeeper with his effort.
Jon Shaw came closest to breaking the deadlock in the first half for Shields as he met a Tee corner at the near post but was kept off the scoresheet by a fine goal-line clearance.
Shaw again proved influential shortly before half-time but this time at the other end of the pitch, with the defender timing a tackle superbly to deny the hosts a strike on goal.
Shields did have to repel one more attack before the referee blew his whistle to signal the end of the opening 45 minutes, and only a superb fingertip save by Myles Boney denied Ethan Wood and kept the scores level.
Having already made one substitution in the first half, the Mariners made nine more at the break as the likes of Massanka and McGowan were given opportunities to shine.
It took less than a minute for Massanka to demonstrate his ability as he motored down the left and delivered a cross which was eventually skewed wide by Blair Adams, who was the only member of Shields’ starting line-up to still be on the pitch at that point.
The away side’s threat grew as the second half progressed and after Darius Osei and Robert Briggs saw efforts blocked, they broke the deadlock on 83 minutes.
A low ball from the right was collected by Massanka, who swivelled and picked out the bottom corner to mark his first appearance for the club with a goal.
It was to prove the last significant piece of action on a sun-kissed night in County Durham as Shields were left to reflect on an evening of positives and a victory to open their pre-season campaign.
They will look to continue to build their sharpness on Saturday when they welcome Stockton Town to 1st Cloud Arena.
South Shields: Boney (Steavens 46), Verstraaten (Hunter 46), Adams (c) (Kempster 62), Shaw (Agnew 46), Trialist (Morse 46), Ross (McGowan 46), Kempster (Osei 30), Lowe (Rossiter 46), Hodgson (Massanka 46), Jenkins (Briggs 46), Tee (Trialist 46).
Goal: Massanka (83).
Image: Kev Wilson.
South Shields begin their pre-season programme as they travel to Northern League side Newton Aycliffe on Tuesday (7.30pm kick-off).
Supporters will be able to watch the Mariners in action for the first time since last December after seven months of inaction because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It is the first of eight friendly matches scheduled ahead of the start of the Pitching In Northern Premier League season, and gives fans the opportunity to catch a first glimpse of summer arrivals Conor Tee and Ntumba Massanka in a Shields shirt.
Graham Fenton’s side will wear their new Nike home strip during Tuesday’s game against a Newton Aycliffe side which kicked off their pre-season campaign with a spirited 3-1 defeat against National League North’s Spennymoor Town in late-June.
Fenton said: “This is a game we’ve been really looking forward to.
“It has been a long time since we played a game in front of supporters and the lads are absolutely raring to go, which I’m sure Newton Aycliffe’s players will be too.
“Football is completely different when it’s not played in front of supporters and we’ve seen the impact crowds can make in the European Championships.
“It’s going to be excellent to play in front of them again and it makes this match a real occasion for us.”
Fenton has indicated that Shields intend to make full use of their squad – which may be bolstered by a handful of trialists – in their pre-season opener as the players begin to develop their match fitness.
He added: “These games are all about building match sharpness.
“You can train as much as you want, but there’s nothing quite like game-time to get ready for the season.
“You have to be careful not to give players too many minutes too early in pre-season, because it has been a long time since they played 90 minutes.
“We’ll have to build up their game-time as pre-season progresses and we get towards the start of the league campaign.”
Newton Aycliffe started last season promisingly and were fifth in Northern League Division One when the campaign was brought to a premature close.
Colin Stromsoy’s team begin their league season on July 31st and are two weeks ahead of Shields in their preparations, with Fenton expecting a significant test at the Beaumont Landscapes Stadium.
He said: “Newton Aycliffe usually play decent football so we’ve expecting a very good game.
“They’ll certainly be highly motivated and not want to lose.
“The tougher the test, the better for us.
“Newton Aycliffe were doing well in the Northern League before last season was brought to an end, and I’m sure they’ll provide a real challenge for us.”
Admission for the match is priced at £7 for adults and £5 for concessions, which is payable at the turnstiles.
Card and cash payments will be accepted but those paying cash are requested to bring the correct change to minimise cash handling.
The Sports Club bar at the Beaumont Landscapes Stadium will be open from 6pm and the post code of the ground is DL5 5AG.
Team news and match updates will be provided on the club’s Twitter account from 6.30pm.
South Shields will take on clubs including Blyth Spartans and Gateshead as part of a busy pre-season programme ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.
The Mariners will travel to Croft Park to face Blyth on Saturday, July 24, with the game against another National League North side, Gateshead, to take place on Saturday, August 7 at 1st Cloud Arena.
Those fixtures are among eight which have been confirmed for pre-season so far, with four of them to take place at 1st Cloud Arena. It is hoped that a ninth match will be confirmed in due course.
Among Shields’ other opponents before the Pitching In Northern Premier League campaign gets underway are Stockton Town, Consett and Marske United.
The confirmed pre-season fixtures to date are:
Tuesday, July 13: Newton Aycliffe (away, 7.30pm kick-off)
Saturday, July 17: Stockton Town (home, 3pm kick-off)
Tuesday, July 20: Consett (home, 7.30pm kick-off)
Wednesday, July 21: Crook Town (away, 7.30pm kick-off)
Saturday, July 24: Blyth Spartans (away, 3pm kick-off)
Wednesday, July 28: West Allotment Celtic (away, 7.30pm kick-off)
Saturday, July 31: Marske United (home, 3pm kick-off)
Saturday, August 7: Gateshead (home, 3pm kick-off)
Admission and ticket details will be confirmed when it is possible to do so.