Cleethorpes Town 4 South Shields 2
SHIELDS PIERCED BY SLICK OWLS
The last game of pre-season saw Evostik Premier South Shields visit New Linden. A close bond has been built between the two Clubs since the famous Wembley encounter and a large crowd was in position to welcome the players.
With Spalding United waiting in the first League game next Saturday, everyone was trying to gain some clues for a possible starting XI. The management went for a 4-4-2 formation in this one, with young loanee Dylan Parker in goal. The back four consisted of Sam Topliss, Paul Walker, Oli Donald and Tom Davie. Ahead of these in midfield were Jack Richardson, Lewis Collins, Alex Flett (captain) and Jon Oglesby, with Danny North partnering Scott Vernon up front. Craig Disley, Mark Gray, Loz McKay and Josh Batty started on the bench.
Fairly even through the opening 10 minutes, with North testing the away stopper and a cross from Davie just beyond the reach of an Owls’ forward. Shields also went close after good play between Gavin Cogdon and Robert Briggs.
It was noticeable as the half wore on that Clee were giving the Mariners no time to settle into their passing game, with Vernon in particular catching the eye with his work rate. Fellow striker North was also proving to be a thorn in the side of the visitors’ defence and, once again, was denied by the triallist keeper on 25 minutes.
This was not to say that Shields were not offering some danger, and Parkin saved well from the dangerous Cogdon. Carl Finnigan also was close to rounding off a fast counter-attack.
Pressure was really being applied by the Owls and, as we moved towards half-time, a double strike ensured the score reflected the balance of play.
More harrying by Vernon allowed the ball to find Alex Flett 25 yards out. The captain was given too much time and his fine daisy-cutter shot flew into the bottom corner of the net.
Further delight for the home faithful was to follow and again the powerful presence of Vernon caused havoc. Danny North still had plenty to do but he side-stepped the keeper, before calmly flicking the ball past two defenders on the line.
HT Cleethorpes Town 2 (Flett 35, North 37) South Shields 0
More of the same to start the second period with Shields still struggling to gain much of a foothold. Flett narrowly fired over before the third goal arrived on 54 minutes. Danny North’s surging run through the inside left channel was ended by a clumsy challenge. An easy decision for the referee, and the reliable penalty taker made no mistake from the spot.
Shields were in danger of being completely overrun by the rampant Owls but, to their credit, they responded almost immediately. A cross in from the right flank was headed home from close range by Gavin Cogdon to provide a lifeline.
The game now became more open and half chances came & went for both teams. A free-kick by Josh Gillies was deflected narrowly wide for Shields and then the energetic Collins had a shot for the Owls, which was well saved. On 80 minutes, Vernon was denied a goal that his overall display would have merited, when Dillon Morse flung himself bravely to block.
Clee regained their 3-goal cushion with five minutes left on the watch and it was a cracker! A free-kick was awarded about 23 yards out. Up stepped substitute Josh Batty to send a slightly swerving effort into the top corner, to finish a prolific pre-season for the recent signing.
In truth, the visitors had been well beaten on the day by an excellent display from the Owls. They kept going to the end though and were rewarded when Gavin Cogdon netted his second in the final significant play.
HT Cleethorpes Town 4 (Flett 35, North 37, 54 pen, Batty 85) South Shields 2 (Cogdon 56, 90) Attendance: 347
A good time to put in our best display of pre-season - I was really impressed! Hard to single out individual players as it was a fantastic team effort. However, Scott Vernon was a handful for the defence and Paul Walker a revelation at centre-back.
I try not to read too much into friendlies but, given the strength of the opposition, it is hard not to be excited about the prospects for a successful Evostik East campaign! Time will tell…
It all starts for real next Saturday (18th – 3pm), when we welcome Spalding United to New Linden. It promises to be a real cracker and all support is most welcome – adults £8, concessions (over 65 and 16-18 years) £4, children (under 16) £2.
One final note that, after yesterday’s results, we will be away to Midland League Premier division Loughborough University in the FA Cup Preliminary Round on 25th August. Travel arrangements should be announced this week.
UP THE OWLS!