The Owls put on an encouraging display in the North-East on Saurday afternoon. South Shields edged a competitive encounter 2-1 to lift the Jak Fada Memorial Trophy. A terrific early strike from Lewis Collins had given Clee the initiative, before the Mariners fought back to lift the silverware.
With several absentees due to injury and holiday, manager Dave Smith took a 16-man squad to Tyneside. There was a place on the bench for academy player Alfie Usher.
The side lined up as follows:
Goal: Lewis Exall
Defence: Adam Millson, Ben Clappison, Oli Donald, Jack Boswell
Midfield: Jack Richardson, Alex Flett (c), Lewis Collins
Attack: Brody Robertson, Scott Vernon, Josh Batty
Subs: Liam Dickens, Jaime Ture, Danny Jewell, Alfie Usher, Matt Bloomer
A crowd of 766 welcomed the players, who were accompanied by local youngsters. Of course, the whole day was a tribute to young Mariners’ fan Jak Fada, who had tragically died in 2017. Both Clubs could be extremely proud of the part played in the afternoon’s events.
The action got off to an explosive start - the Owls moving ahead with a stunning goal timed at 25 seconds. Straight from the kick-off, a well worked move found Lewis Collins on the left. There did not appear to be much immediate danger to the home rearguard. However, the midfielder accelerated smoothly in-field and unleashed an unstoppable curler into the top-corner from a full 25 yards out.
Just the tonic needed for the visitors and Clee, who were employing a fluid system of either 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 depending on the pattern of play, had the better of the opening phase. Robertson did well to get to the by-line but was eventually crowded out.
In truth, clear chances were at a premium and the Clee defence, well marshalled by Clappison and Donald, was coping easily enough with sporadic forays forward from the home side.
Just when it looked that the Owls would head to the interval with a narrow, but deserved, lead, Shields levelled from the spot. From the Main Stand, it was unclear what the penalty was given for, but referee Mr Urwin was adamant that he had spotted an infringement. Lee Mason made no mistake from 12-yards.
HT South Shields 1 (Mason 41 pen) Cleethorpes Town 1 (Collins 1)
With the rain now steadily coming down, the travelling fans made a colourful and noisy sight behind Exall’s goal. Donald was twice required to power clear with his head, with Shields upping the tempo after the half-time cuppa.
As time ticked on, and with the need for pre-season minutes, both sides made changes – Scott Vernon was withdrawn and replaced by Jaime Ture on the hour mark for the Owls.
Clee were continuing to work extremely hard but were undone after 69 minutes by another set-piece. A free-kick was awarded in a central position, about 22-yards from the target. Exall, who had looked confident with his glove-work, was defeated by a delightfully flighted shot from Josh Gillies, which nestled in the corner of the net.
This was immediately greeted by a chorus of “there’s only one Jak Fada!” from the visiting Owl Army, which was well appreciated and met by warm applause from the locals.
Substitute Ture nearly engineered an equaliser with 75 minutes gone. The new signing forced his was into the box and his chipped effort needed turning behind by the keeper. After this, Dave Smith decided the time was right to give two of his young charges a taste of the occasion. Danny Jewell and debutant Alfie Usher were introduced, with experienced pair Alex Flett and Brody Robertson giving way.
The Owls were not giving up the chase in the closing stages. Nevertheless, despite battling manfully throughout against their higher-ranked opponents, Clee could not quite force the issue. However, it was a highly promising display and everyone connected could be well pleased to have represented the Club with distinction.
It was left to home captain Jon Shaw to lift the Jak Fada Memorial Trophy, which had been generously donated by Clee Town fans.
HT South Shields 2 (Mason 41 pen, Gillies 69) Cleethorpes Town 1 (Collins 1) Attendance: 766
Firstly, everyone who travelled to Marines Park – a big well done! You represented yourselves and the Owls superbly on what was bound to be an emotional afternoon. Numerous comments from Shields’ supporters have been received on social media and in person, all heaping praise on the conduct of Clee.
I was well pleased with our on-field contribution as well. Great goal from Lewis and a strong rearguard, ultimately undone by two set plays.
You could see, much more so than the Grimsby match, what the management team is trying to achieve - a solid, but fluid, formation. It worked well and probably, particularly in light of the our excellent first-half, a draw would have been fair.
Plenty of friendlies still to come and opportunities ahead for the whole squad to impress, before the big kick-off on 17th August at Ilkeston Town.
Tuesday 16th July – 7.45pm (IMPORTANT NOTE: NOT 7PM)
Winterton Rangers – friendly
West Street, Winterton, DN15 9QF
Adults £5, Children £3
UP THE OWLS!