Julio Arca’s debut goal was not enough for South Shields as they were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw by bottom side Stokesley Sports Club at Mariners Park on Saturday.
The former Sunderland and Middlesbrough star capped an impressive performance by putting his new side ahead just after the hour mark in front of a superb crowd of 764.
Arca was credited with the Mariners’ goal as his shot hit a defender before trickling into the net.
Shields were dominant, and missed numerous opportunities before being hit on the counter-attack as Joshua Chambers’ shot hit a defender, lopped in the air and bounced in off the crossbar to earn Stokesley their first point of the season.
Arca played the full 90 minutes and ended the game in pain as he suffered a blow to his hand, but even that and the result could not take away from his enjoyment of feeling like a footballer again.
The Argentine - who played for Sunday League side Willow Pond last season - said was delighted to step back into the old routine.
He said: “When you’re playing, even at a semi-professional level, the preparation is the same. It was a good feeling to prepare for the game.
“We did a proper warm-up before the game, and that’s something I haven’t done for a while.
“In Sunday League, it’s totally different. You just arrive there 10 minutes before the game and get into the match straightaway.
“It was good to be back in that routine, and I enjoyed the day.
It was good to be back in the routine, and I enjoyed the day.Julio Arca
“It had been two or three months since the last time I played 90 minutes, and it felt good.
“In the last 15-20 minutes, my legs started to get tired, as I expected, because the grass was wet and it was a bit heavy.
“It felt good to be back playing and running around. For not playing for the last three months, I think the performance was OK.”
Arca, Ryan Noble, Warren Byrne, Robert Briggs and Leepaul Scroggins were among the players to go close for Shields on an afternoon when numerous clear-cut opportunities went begging, with the woodwork hit on more than one occasion.
The Argentine was credited with the Shields goal despite the ball bouncing off Clayton McDonald before finding the net, and the 34-year-old was delighted to claim it.
He added: “It’s definitely my goal! It could have been mine, but the guy...I don’t know what’s happened there.
“It hit his left and his right foot, and he ended up putting it in.
“We are disappointed with the result, of course, because after creating so many chances, we should have won the game.
“It could have been 10-1, but that’s football. If you don’t take your chances, that’s what happens sometimes.”
Shields again beat their seasonal record attendance - which had stood at the 642 who watched last week’s loss to Easington Colliery - despite torrential rain before and during the match.
And Arca is hopeful the supporters will be back in the coming weeks and months, despite the disappointing result.
He said: “It was great to see so many people turn up, especially with the weather we had. I’m sure if the weather was better, it could have been even more.
“That’s what we need. I know we need results and that results will bring more people here, but if we get a good and solid support, I’m sure the lads are going to do well.
“Teams coming here are going to feel pressure from the fans. It’s something every team needs, and hopefully the fans come back.
“I know it was disappointing not to win on Saturday, but hopefully the fans saw that the team was trying to play football and we created a lot of chances.
“If you look at the whole picture, I think it was a good game, apart from the result.”
Arca is expected to be available to make his second appearance for the Mariners in next week’s league trip to Brandon United, despite suffering a hand injury in the second half.
The midfielder, who lined up on the left of a midfield diamond, said: “My hand is quite painful now.
“I twisted one of my fingers and it’s a bit swollen.
“It might be ligament bruise or something like that, but hopefully it will be sorted for next week, which I’m really looking forward to.”
SOUTH SHIELDS: Pocklington, Smith, Curry (Heptinstall 78), Hall, Galpin, Chapim, Briggs, Scroggins (c), Byrne (Thexton 65), Noble, Arca. Subs not used: Young, Riding, Turner.
Goal: Arca (63).