Pre-season preparations are now well underway for South Shields, with the countdown continuing to the Mariners’ first friendly.

An exciting programme of fixtures has been put together by joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton to help prepare the players for the challenge ahead in the Evo-Stik League North.

The squad – including new signings Matty Pattison and Luke Sullivan – returned to training on Saturday, July 1, and supporters will get the chance to see them in action on July 15, when the first pre-season match is played.

Here is the pre-season schedule at a glance…

South Shields vs Gateshead – Saturday, July 15 (3pm)

Less than two months on from the FA Vase final, the Mariners will return to action with a tasty-looking fixture against National League side Gateshead. The match, to be held at Mariners Park, could see ex-Heed stars Jon Shaw, Craig Baxter, Carl Finnigan, Matty Pattison, Robert Briggs, Dillon Morse and Liam Connell come up against their former club. Winger Luke Hannant, meanwhile, could come up against Shields, less than a year after he made four appearances for the club as part of a dual-registration deal with Gateshead. Hospitality is available for this fixture – please call 0191 454 7800 if you are interested.

Boldon CA vs South Shields – Thursday, July 20 (7.30pm)

Traditions will be upheld on July 20 when the Mariners make the short journey to the Boldon CA Sports Ground to compete for the Sam Bartram Memorial Cup. The trophy is challenged for every summer between South Shields and Wearside League outfit Boldon CA, in memory of former goalkeeper Sam Bartram. Bartram, who was born in South Shields in 1914, went on to play for Boldon Villa before making his name with a famous spell at Charlton Athletic, with whom he won the FA Cup in 1947. In last year’s contest, Shields won 5-2, thanks largely to a hat-trick from Jon Shaw.

South Shields vs FC United of Manchester – Saturday, July 22 (3pm)

The clash between Shields and FC United of Manchester promises to be an extremely interesting occasion at Mariners Park. FC United, who were set up in 2005, now play in the National League North, so will provide the Mariners with a strong test of their credentials. They are also expected to bring a good following of supporters, having attracted an average home crowd of more than 2,500 last season. The club was founded by a group of supporters who became disillusioned with modern football at the top level, and with Malcolm Glazer’s takeover of Manchester United. The largest fan-owned club in the UK have had an impressive rise since. Hospitality is available for this fixture – please call 0191 454 7800 if you are interested.

Blyth Spartans vs South Shields – Saturday, July 29 (3pm)

A week on from the FC United clash, Blyth Spartans should provide a similar standard of opposition at Croft Park. Spartans were promoted from the Evo-Stik Premier Division as champions last season, with Alun Armstrong’s men accruing an impressive 101 points. Key player Dan Maguire was retained in the summer, while the club recruited Dale Hopson from Whitby Town as they prepared for life in the National League North. Former Blyth players Dillon Morse, Alex Nicholson, Robert Briggs and Michael Richardson could all make their returns to Croft Park, as will Graham Fenton and Lee Picton, who have both had spells within Spartans’ backroom staff.

South Shields vs Sunderland AFC – Wednesday, August 2 (7.30pm)

The match against a Sunderland AFC XI at Mariners Park promises to be a special occasion in more ways than one. A clash with the Black Cats would be exciting in any circumstances, but the game will also double up as a testimonial for loyal Shields striker Stephen Ramsey in recognition for his 10 years of service at the club. Although it is a testimonial, Picton and Fenton are to treat it in the same manner as all of the other friendlies as they begin to add the final touches to their preparations for the new season.

Whitby Town vs South Shields – Saturday, August 5 (1pm)

The Mariners’ final pre-season friendly sees them travel to face Whitby Town at the Turnbull Ground. Whitby will provide Shields with another tough test, having narrowly missed out on the Evo-Stik Premier Division play-offs last season. Among their ranks is former Mariners midfielder David Carson. This will be a rematch of a friendly between the sides last summer, which Shields won 1-0 on a baking hot July afternoon. After this match, the Mariners will have just one more week to wait until their adventure in Evo-Stik League North begins. The fixtures for the upcoming league season will be released on Thursday, July 13.

South Shields will travel to Whitby Town as part of their pre-season programme.

The match at the Turnbull Ground will take place on Saturday, August 5, with kick-off at 1pm.

The friendly is a re-match of last season’s pre-season fixture between the sides at Whitby, which the Mariners won 1-0.

Club sponsor Westoe Travel will be running a coach to the game, which will return in time for the SSFC Members’ Club River Cruise that night.

There will be a discount for those in the SSFC Members’ Club, with seats on the coach costing £11 for adults, £10.50 for children and seniors, and £9 for those in the Members’ Club.

The coach will depart and drop off at Mariners Park. For a seat on it, call 0191 455 2292.

The Mariners also have home friendlies against Gateshead (Saturday, July 15) and FC United of Manchester (Saturday, July 22), with more games to be announced in due course.

A first half own goal was enough to hand South Shields a victory at Whitby Town as the Mariners impressed again in their fourth friendly of pre-season.

The Mariners were dominant in possession against their opponents, who operate two leagues higher, in the Northern Premier League Premier Division.

They could and perhaps should have won more comfortably after a superb team performance, but settled for the one-goal margin of victory as their preparations for the new season were stepped up another notch.

Four trialists started the game, while the likes of Julio Arca, David Foley and David Palmer returned to the line-up after sitting out of Tuesday’s friendly at Bedlington Terriers.

Very quickly, they asserted their authority, winning the ball regularly high up the pitch as Whitby were pressed back.

Arca was particularly influential, and he was the first player to go close when his curled free-kick struck the wall before clearing the crossbar.

Jon Shaw also had a shot blocked, while Foley saw an effort well held by home goalkeeper Shane Bland, all before 10 minutes had been played.

The next big opportunity came just after the half-hour mark when Shaw slipped a ball through to Foley, but Bland did well to quickly narrow the angle before saving the frontman’s shot.

Arca saw another free-kick kept out before he conjured up a chance for himself with some impressive skill, dragging the ball back with one foot and then touching it past the defender, before being denied by the legs of Bland.

From the resulting corner, though, Shields were ahead, with Arca swinging in a wicked delivery from the right which was glanced into the net by the head of Whitby’s Steven Snaith.

Shaw had an effort kept out in the closing stages of the first half, but Shields went in at the break a goal ahead, which was the least they deserved for their play.

Chances were fewer in the second half, but Foley did go close to adding a second for the Mariners when they won the ball high up the field before he drove inside, hitting a powerful low effort which substitute goalkeeper James Dawson did well to palm behind.

Foley had another low shot saved by Dawson, and at that stage, Whitby had not troubled Shields throughout proceedings.

That changed with two minutes left, though, when a free-kick from deep caused problems, but no attacker was able to get on the end of it.

That seemed to spark the hosts into life, and substitute Cameron Park hit the bar with an audacious effort from outside the box as Shields were given another late scare.

After they survived that, it never appeared likely they would fail to win, and the referee’s final whistle represented another job well done for the Mariners, who next travel to Hebburn Town on Monday.

SOUTH SHIELDS: Trialist (Carmichael 46), Baxter (Morse 46), Turner, Carson, Trialist (Storey 46), Arca, Trialist (Scroggins 46), Trialist (Trialist 80), Shaw (Byrne 70), Palmer (Ramsey 63), Foley.

Goal: Own goal (35).