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’ long wait for a game at 1st Cloud Arena comes to an end on Saturday when Stockton Town visit for a pre-season friendly (3pm kick-off).
It will be the Mariners’ first home match in 261 days after the coronavirus pandemic brought the 2020-21 season to a premature close.
Tickets for the game are available by clicking here.
Supporters can look forward to the potential of seeing summer arrivals Conor Tee, Ntumba Massanka and Will McGowan in action, with the team set to wear the striking Nike away kit which was launched on Thursday.
They will also be able to witness at first hand the extensive ground improvements which have been made during the close season, including new terraced areas behind both goals, a new pitchside perimeter fence, a freshly-laid ground surface throughout the ground and new seats in the existing main stand.
The new main stand on the Shaftesbury Avenue side of 1st Cloud Arena remains under construction, with the seats in the existing stand to be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Shields go into the match after beginning their pre-season programme with a 1-0 victory at Newton Aycliffe on Tuesday, where Massanka scored the only goal.
South Shields manager Graham Fenton said: “Such a lot has happened since we last played a home game, and we hope to provide some great entertainment for our fans to watch in the coming weeks as we prepare for the new season.
“The players have trained extremely hard in preparation for this moment, and we are now into the most important period as the matches begin.
“We are hugely impressed by the fitness levels the lads have been able to reach and these games now give them an opportunity to build their match sharpness and develop a greater understanding of their roles in the team.
“It’s up to them over the next few weeks to nail down their place in the team for our league opener on August 14th.”
Captain Robert Briggs added: “I know the fans will have missed it as much as the players and staff, and we can’t wait to play in front of them again.
“The last few seasons have been a real mental battle that myself and all the players need to use as motivation going into the new season and the push for promotion.
“It has been very difficult to keep spirits high without football and a lot of other things in life over much of the last year, but all of the lads kept themselves in good shape with home workouts and running sessions during the time we weren’t able to play or train.
“Because of that, as soon as training began we were already in a good place fitness-wise so it was a relief as well as a great feeling to be back around each other.”
INFORMATION FOR SUPPORTERS
The turnstiles at 1st Cloud Arena will open at 12.30pm and purchasing a ticket in advance is strongly recommended, as the capacity of the ground has been set at 975 for this game because of coronavirus restrictions. A decision on whether a cash turnstile will be opened will be communicated on the morning of the match.
Tickets are priced at £6 for adults, £4 for students and over-65s, and £2 for under-16s.
Supporters are advised that, because of the ongoing restrictions, food and drink will not be available for purchase from the outdoor kiosks. Drinks will be served indoors on a strictly table service only and the balcony will be closed on this occasion. This is set to be the final match played under these restrictions, which are due to be lifted on Monday in time for the friendly with Consett the next day.
Seats in the existing main stand will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Turnstile 1 and 2 will be ticket-only and turnstiles 3 and 4 will also be in operation, as will turnstiles 5 and 6, which are situated beside the underpass next to the 3G pitch.
Merchandise, including the 2021-22 home shirt, will be available to buy from a new pop-up shop – situated in one of the kiosks by the players’ tunnel – on the day of the match.
A match programme, covering the game against Stockton and the subsequent meeting with Consett on Tuesday, will be available for £2. The front cover is pictured below.
Supporters will be able to enjoy the return of football in style after a pre-season hospitality package was launched by South Shields FC.
For the reduced pre-season rate of £30, guests will be able to enjoy a delicious two-course meal and take part in a question and answer session with players and management ahead of the game. There will also be a complimentary drink on arrival and access to exclusive drinks packages and after-dinner extras.
Bookings are now open for the friendly with Stockton Town on Saturday, July 17, which will be the first match held at 1st Cloud Arena in 261 days. Fans are advised that, because of the current coronavirus restrictions, those in the hospitality section are the only match-goers who will be able to consume food at the ground on the day of the Stockton match.
Those who have already purchased tickets for the Stockton match who would like to upgrade to a hospitality package will have the cost of their ticket reduced from the hospitality price.
Anyone looking to book is asked to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org at the earliest convenience.
The food menu for the hospitality guests at the Stockton game is outlined below.