South Shields hit Stockton Town for six at a sweltering 1st Cloud Arena as the Mariners marked their long-awaited homecoming in style.
It was Shields’ first home match in 261 days and a crowd of 973 cheered them to an emphatic 6-1 pre-season win as Blair Adams, Alex Kempster, Ntumba Massanka and Callum Ross all netted, with Darius Osei adding a further two goals.
It was a hugely encouraging performance and result from the Mariners against a side which won promotion from the Northern League last season.
Seemingly inspired by a buoyant home support, Graham Fenton’s team made their intentions clear immediately as they pressed from the front.
Within two minutes, Kempster won the ball inside the Stockton penalty area and pulled it back for Nathan Lowe, who fired over from 12 yards.
Lowe was central to the game’s opening exchanges and drew a low save from Connor Roberts before picking out Dillon Morse with a superb free-kick which the defender headed narrowly wide.
Shields were dominant in possession and quickly won it back whenever they lost it. Their early pressure paid off in the 17th minute.
Lowe clipped a ball into the area which Kempster headed across goal to Adams, who volleyed home from close range to give the hosts a deserved lead.
Stockton’s response was impressive and they went close to pulling level almost immediately, but Myles Boney was alert to the danger as he narrowed the angle and smothered an effort from Jonathan Franks.
The game’s second goal was not long in coming, though, and it was Shields who claimed it.
Kempster pounced on a loose ball in the Stockton box and danced around Roberts before, with defenders converging, he rifled into the roof of the net as the home side’s strong start continued.
The Mariners were enjoying particular success down the left flank and some fine work on that channel almost resulted in a third goal. They patiently worked their way into the area and Massanka’s backheel played in Adams, who was only denied a second goal by the legs of Roberts.
Osei and captain Robert Briggs were introduced from the bench in the 34th minute and the former almost scored with his first touch after being picked out by Massanka, but he guided the ball just past the post.
Briggs also threatened the Stockton goal with a powerful low drive from 25 yards which Roberts was forced to beat behind for a corner.
Shields were rampant and they added the third goal they had been probing for when Briggs’ corner from the right was punched by Roberts onto the head of Osei before dropping into the net.
The Anchors pulled a goal back moments before the break despite the best efforts of Dillon Morse, who cleared an effort from a corner off the line. Adam Nicholson reached the loose ball first and produced a swivelled finish to reduce the deficit to two.
Jon Shaw and Will Jenkins were brought on at half-time by the Mariners and it took just five minutes for Shaw to register an assist as he chested down a cross from Briggs to Ross, who buried it left footed into the bottom corner.
Any faint Stockton hopes of a comeback were extinguished in Shields’ next significant attack. Jordan Hunter was played into space down the right and produced a sumptuous cross into the six-yard area which Osei was on hand to slam past Roberts.
Massanka got in on the act on the hour mark on his first appearance at 1st Cloud Arena with a terrific first-time finish from a Conor Tee cutback.
There were opportunities for the Mariners to further extend their lead in the late stages, with Blair Rossiter dragging a shot narrowly wide, Sam Hodgson twice going close and Lowe firing a free-kick onto the roof of the net, while substitute goalkeeper Aaron Steavens made two smart saves at the other end.
It was a superb afternoon’s work for the Mariners, who registered their second win from two pre-season games. They are back in action on Tuesday when they welcome Consett to 1st Cloud Arena.
South Shields: Boney (Steavens 61), Hunter (Verstraaten 61), Adams (c) (Lowe 61), Ross (Rossiter 61), Morse (Shaw 46), Trialist (Agnew 61), Kempster (Osei 34), Lowe (Briggs 34), Massanka (Hodgson 61), McGowan (Jenkins 46), Tee (Kempster 61).
Goals: Adams (17), Kempster (22), Osei (44, 53), Ross (50), Massanka (60).
Image: Kev Wilson.
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 Football Club is delighted to announce the signing of striker Ntumba Massanka.
Massanka has made a strong impression in training over recent weeks and has put pen to paper after receiving international clearance.
The 24-year-old most recently played for Italian side ASD Angelana, having spent his formative years in the youth systems of clubs including Manchester United, Manchester City and Burnley.
He has also represented York City, Morecambe, Dover Athletic and Belgian outfit RWD Molenbeek, with his most recent spell in England having been with then-National League club Chorley in the 2019-20 season.
During his time at Burnley, Massanka played alongside Nathan Lowe and two former Mariners, Luke Daly and Jason Gilchrist.
The Tottenham-born Manchester native received a huge amount of positive feedback from his ex-team-mates about life at South Shields, and he has spoken of his excitement as he embarks on a new challenge.
He said: “I’m really happy that it’s over the line.
“It took a little bit of time but I’m just glad to be here and settled after such a long year of not playing due to the pandemic.
“Nathan (Lowe) messaged me about coming here and persuaded me to have a look, and Luke (Daly) also said nothing but good things about the club.
“As soon as I got here and saw the facilities, the way the club is operated and the players we have, it was a no-brainer and I wanted to get signed up straightaway.”Massanka was a prolific goalscorer at youth level during a long-term stint at Burnley and is now looking to put down roots at Shields after a number of loan moves.
He added: “I’ve really enjoyed the last couple of weeks in pre-season.
“It has been tough but the morale is great, the lads are great and everyone has really welcomed me into the group.
“I believe we have the quality to achieve what we want at the end of the season, which is promotion.
“It’s definitely important to me to come here and settle down. I want to enjoy my football again and be at a place where I feel it’s going forward.
“I know for sure that this club – if you speak to the manager, chairman or players – is going in the right direction. I think it’s perfect for me to be here.”
Manager Graham Fenton has described his new recruit as a “fantastic young man” he is confident will make a significant impact next season.
He said: “Tumbs came onto our radar through Nathan Lowe, who spoke very highly of him as a person and footballer having played with him at Burnley a few years ago.
“Nathan didn’t hesitate to recommend him as a really good option for us at the top end of the pitch.
“Tumbs came in initially for a week on trial and hugely impressed myself, Jon Shaw and Brian Smith, which is why we invited him back for another week.
“After the second week of training, we felt that offering Tumbs a contract was a no-brainer because of the qualities he had shown.
“The supporters can look forward to seeing a centre-forward who can look after the ball, understands centre-forward movements and will definitely chip in with his fair share of goals.
“On top of that, Tumbs has fitted brilliantly into the squad and is such a fantastic young man.
“We look forward to seeing him in a South Shields shirt as soon as possible.”
A video interview with Ntumba Massanka will be published on Friday.