NSHC Men’s 1st XI opened the season with an entertaining but unconvincing win at Marden Bridge on Saturday afternoon, overcoming the Teesside team 6-4. The visitors started the brighter with clear attacking intent and probably should have got the first goal but for some wayward finishing and key interventions from Booth and Piper. Instead it was Shields who broke the deadlock with a quick aerial pass to Sowter who crossed to give forward Lough the chance to convert from close range. Shields and Lough doubled their tally through a converted penalty stroke after excellent work on the right by Foster.
Marton however were no pushover and played themselves back into the game, converting a well taken penalty flick of their own after some hesitant Shields defending gave the umpire no choice. Marton came again and applied pressure down the Shields left leading to a string of penalty corners, the third of these seemed to break down only for some quick thinking to lead to a simple tap in at the back post. Not to be outdone Harrison began pulling the strings, picking passes for fun and linking up expertly with the forward line. A Shields third shortly followed, possibly the best of the lot: Harrison receiving the ball from the back, finding Bell who turned, beat a man and played a 40 yard pass into the path of Sowter who unselfishly squared the ball for Chater to volley into an empty net, wonderful movement, accurate passing and good running, an exceptional team goal. Half time and Shields narrowly led 3-2.
The second half however saw Shields begin much the stronger team, confidence high, passes finding the right man and maintaining possession for lengthy periods. A fourth goal seemed inevitable and Chater duly delivered, striking a penalty corner cleanly enough to beat the attempted clearance on the line. And the Bell to Sowter combination worked to perfection for a lovely fifth goal, this time Sowter squaring for Lough to bag his hat-trick in the opening game, an excellent confidence boost for the front man. To round things off, another string of short corners resulted in Piper using guile over brute force and slotting the ball delightfully into the bottom corner and out of reach of keeper and defenders alike.
Marton rallied and Shields began to flag, mistakes creeping in and creating openings as energy levels were sapped by the hot afternoon. Two quick goals gave the travelling side a sniff, though Smith in the Shields goal could not be faulted for either, the latter in particular a well worked move and a smart finish.
Shields however managed to see out the last few minutes in relative calm, the experience of Bertenshaw and Harrison guiding them home. Shields were delighted with a result against a Marton team that finished above them in last season’s final standings. Not perfect but a cracking foundation to build on for the new season. Impressive performances across the pitch, notably from hat-trick hero Lough and Bell in the middle of the park but Harrison took man of the Match honours, dictating play, spraying passes and plugging gaps, he was everywhere on Saturday afternoon.
Shields focus shifts to a tough away trip to league newcomers Harrogate next Saturday.