South Shields fell to a 4-1 defeat at Stockton Town as they continued their preparations for the new season on Wednesday.
The Mariners opened the scoring with a well-directed header from Robert Briggs but three goals in four minutes from the hosts towards the end of the first half turned the game on its head.
Shields lost Nathan Lowe to a straight red card early in the second half and the Anchors added a fourth from the penalty spot in stoppage time to complete the scoring.
Stockton were strong opposition for the Mariners, having comfortably led the Northern League last season before the campaign was brought to a premature close.
They fired their visitors an early warning when Kevin Hayes curled a shot wide but Shields had the bulk of the possession and took the lead on 24 minutes when Briggs met an Alex Kempster corner with a towering header and picked out the top corner.
Josh Gillies was particularly influential on the left flank and he almost doubled the Mariners’ advantage 10 minutes before half-time, but his effort struck the crossbar.
Stockton did carry a threat of their own and Hayes had another opportunity before they did pull back on level terms, with Nathan Mulligan firing home after being found by Michael Roberts.
That sparked a flurry of attacks from the home side and they added a second less than a minute later as Tom Portas beat Myles Boney with a terrific chip.
In the 41st minute a shell-shocked Shields found themselves 3-1 behind, just moments after Kempster had almost equalised at the other end. Mulligan was again the scorer as he finished clinically at the end of a quick counter-attack.
Roberts went close to adding number four 10 minutes into the second half only to be denied by a goal-line clearance from Dillon Morse, and the visitors’ task was made tougher soon after as Lowe was given his marching orders for a late challenge in midfield.
The 10 men of Shields battled valiantly in the remainder of the game but were unable to find a breakthrough, with substitute Will McCamley going closest as his effort was deflected narrowly past the post.
Stockton were awarded a penalty for handball in the final minute and Jamie Owens converted from the spot to complete a 4-1 victory for the hosts.
South Shields: Boney, Baxter, Adams, Ross (Thompson 34), Morse, Verstraaten, Kempster (Trialist 80), Briggs (c), Gilchrist (Hodgson 60), Lowe, Gillies (McCamley 60). Subs not used: Steavens, Lockey, Croft, Wade, Jenkins.
South Shields will take on their third Northern League opposition of pre-season on Wednesday when they travel to Stockton Town.
Stockton led the Northern League and were well on course for promotion when the 2019-20 season was curtailed, and defeated the Mariners in the Durham Challenge Cup in January.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton are therefore expecting a difficult test against the Anchors in a game which will be played in front of 150 supporters.
The tickets have been snapped up by Stockton season ticket holders, with no tickets to be available on the day of the match.
The game will kick-off at 7.30pm and the club is hoping to live stream it, although logistical challenges are expected and more details will be announced closer to the time of the match.
South Shields squad (from): Myles Boney, Aaron Steavens, Blair Adams, Craig Baxter, Gary Brown, Josh Croft, Dillon Morse, Wouter Verstraaten, Mathew Wade, Robert Briggs, Josh Gillies, Will Jenkins, Alex Kempster, Nathan Lowe, Will McCamley, Callum Ross, Arron Thompson, Jason Gilchrist, Sam Hodgson, Trialist.
South Shields suffered a disappointing night in the Durham Challenge Cup as Northern League leaders Stockton Town came from behind to win 2-1 at Mariners Park.
A brace from Anchors captain Adam Nicholson turned the game on its head in the second half after Josh Gillies’ superb free-kick had given Shields the lead before the break.
The winner was notched by Nicholson in the first minute of second half stoppage time as Stockton ended Shields’ hopes of winning a competition they last triumphed in three years ago.
Shields made eight changes from the team which had won 2-1 at Lancaster City three days previously, with Myles Boney, Jordan Hunter and Gary Brown the three players to keep their places.
They started brightly enough, with teenage defender Ben Errington floating a header wide and Brown powerfully heading over within the first eight minutes.
Stockton, who have enjoyed a tremendous season so far, fired a warning as to their prowess from set-pieces on the quarter-hour mark as Nicholson volleyed over from a corner when well-placed.
Jamie Owens also had a glorious chance to open the scoring when he robbed Shields of possession high up the pitch before rolling an effort wide.
Boney made a terrific fingertip save to keep out a header from Owens as Stockton’s impressive spell continued, although the Mariners still looked dangerous at the other end and went close as Hunter fired narrowly wide from 25 yards.
The home side made the breakthrough in stunning style three minutes before half-time as Gillies curled an inch-perfect free-kick into the net via the post for his second goal in as many Durham Challenge Cup appearances.
Shields carried that lead into the break but found themselves on the back foot for much of the second half as the Anchors threatened a comeback.
Fred Woodhouse drifted a shot over and Owens fired off target from distance before Stockton struck 15 minutes before the end.
Max Craggs’ corner from the left fell to Nicholson in the six-yard box and his effort squeezed past Shields substitute Arron Thompson on the line.
Mikey Roberts thought he had put the visitors in front less than two minutes later when he finished a swift counter-attack but the offside flag denied him.
Shields’ best efforts for a winner came from Thompson, who first cut inside from the left and had a goalbound effort blocked before later drilling a shot from distance which goalkeeper Callum Roberts got down to save.
Stockton clinched the tie a minute into stoppage time from another Craggs corner – this time from the right – which was finished first-time by Nicholson at the back post to spark Anchors celebrations.
The Mariners will look to return to winning ways on Saturday when they host Witton Albion in the league.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Hunter, Adams (c), Ross, Errington (Baxter 63), Brown, Gillies, Guy (Thompson 71), Mason (Hodgson 82), Jenkins, Alli. Subs not used: Charlton, Wade.
Goal: Gillies (42).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.