South Shields got off to a winning start in the Pitching In Northern Premier League as strikes from Michael Woods and Joao Gomes were enough to earn a deserved victory over Stalybridge Celtic on the opening day.
Debutant Woods opened the scoring five minutes before half-time and substitute Gomes wrapped up the points late on as the Mariners triumphed in the South Tyneside sunshine, carrying the positive momentum they generated in pre-season into the league campaign.
Shields quickly got into their stride and had much the better of the opening proceedings, but found the breakthrough frustratingly elusive.
A chance arrived as early as the third minute as livewire Mackenzie Heaney was played in by Will McGowan, but the ball was slightly in front of him and goalkeeper Greg Hall was able to close the angle and make a brave save.
Blair Adams had a shot blocked as Shields forced Stalybridge into a mistake with some relentless pressing, and the hosts went closer still before 10 minutes were up.
Heaney found Jordan Hunter on the right flank and his first-time pass across the area found its way to Darius Osei at the back post. He looked certain to break the deadlock, only for Hall to produce a fantastic point-blank stop as he turned the ball onto the post.
The opportunities kept coming for the Mariners, and another was spurned when Dylan Mottley-Henry sprinted in down the right of the area and lifted the ball over Hall. Adams collected it at the back post but blasted over the bar.
There were further efforts by McGowan, who curled wide from the edge of the box, and Martin Smith, who saw a sweet strike beaten away by Hall, as the pressure continued from the home side.
They just could not find a way to beat Hall, though, who watched Mottley-Henry shoot wide from outside the area after cutting inside from the left and Heaney also drag an effort off target from a similar position.
The goalkeeper was called into action again to brilliantly tip a powerful Blair Adams drive over the bar, but he could do nothing to prevent the opener, which finally arrived five minutes before half-time.
It was a goal straight off the training ground as Heaney’s low corner was placed goalwards by Woods from 12 yards and his shot took a deflection before nestling in the corner.
Stalybridge offered their first threat of a goal on 44 minutes, with Louis Danquah heading over from a Ciaran Summers free-kick.
They could have gone in further behind at the break, though, when Osei laid the ball off to Woods and his low strike from 20 yards was well saved by Hall.
Celtic started the second half brightly as they attempted to provide a response, and Godwin Abadaki fired over within six minutes of the restart.
Shields, meanwhile, had to be more patient for their opportunities, although one did fall to Osei on 57 minutes after he was found by McGowan, but Hall was again out quickly to close the angle and make a close-range stop.
The game ticked towards the final stages with little goalmouth action at either end, but Stalybridge fired a warning to their hosts with 12 minutes remaining as a short corner routine led to an opening for captain Tom Miller, who blasted a low strike narrowly wide from just outside the area.
If there were any nerves beginning to appear among the home support, they evaporated on 83 minutes.
A loose clearance by Hall, who had been excellent all game, was seized on by McGowan, who played in substitute Gomes down the right of the area. Gomes displayed impressive confidence and composure to drill the ball through the legs of Hall and make the points safe on his first senior appearance at 1st Cloud Arena.
It completed an at times eye-catching performance for the Mariners as they sent the majority of the 2,001 crowd home happy.
Shields are back in action on Tuesday as they travel to Ashton United in the Pitching In Northern Premier League.
South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams (c), Liddle, Bodenham, Smith, Heaney (Doherty 82), Woods, Osei (Hodgson 66), McGowan, Mottley-Henry (Gomes 66). Subs not used: Briggs, Newton.
Goals: Woods (40), Gomes (83).
Image: Kev Wilson