Alnwick 2-1 South Shields
By Philip Reay
South Shields’ poor run of form continued as they were beaten by the odd goal in three at Alnwick Town on Saturday.
Playing with the advantage of the Alnwick slope, Shields pressed forward from the start.
Abu Salim outpaced the home defence on the left flank, only to have his progress halted as he was brought down on the edge of the box by Ryan Douglas.
Chris Feasey floated the resulting free-kick into the box, only to the ball headed clear.
Shields maintained the pressure on the home defence as Salim probed down the left flank, and on five minutes he again outpaced his marker, only to be brought down by Douglas.
Feasey fired the free-kick towards the back post, but Sean Straker in the Alnwick goal plucked the ball off the head of Adam Sharp and the danger was cleared.
Shields were dominating possession, and with the game approaching the 10 minute mark Lee Maitland won the ball in the centre of the park. He turned away from his marker before playing the ball into the path of Graham Stephenson, who controlled the ball before rifling a shot that was blocked by the Alnwick defence.
From the clearance, Alnwick pressed forward and won a free-kick just outside the Shields box. Tony Brown placed the ball before firing the ball high over the bar.
On the quarter-hour, Craig Roberts collected the ball wide on the right and turned past his marker before sending a cross into the box that was blocked for a corner. The resulting corner was sent into the box by Chris Feasey, but it was headed clear.
At the midpoint of the half, following a foul on Stephenson Shields were awarded a free-kick. Feasey played the ball to Maitland on the edge of the box, but his shot flew just over the bar.
From the clearance, the ball bounced over the Shields defence and Brad McClelland lobbed the ball over the head of the advancing Shields keeper to give the home side the advantage.
Within a minute, Alnwick went close to doubling their advantage. Jonathan Colley played the ball to Kenny Collins, and he fired a 25-yard drive that struck the outside of the post.
Shields responded instantly when Maitland won the ball in the centre of the park and brushed aside the challenge of two defenders before cutting in towards goal, but his shot flew into the side netting.
The Mariners continued to press forward. Maitland picked the ball up in centre of the park before sending a pass wide to Salim, who outpaced his marker before releasing Barrie Smith, but he was denied by a good diving save from Straker.
In the closing stages of the half, Shields won a series of corners that were sent into the box by Feasey, the last of which was headed over by Sharp, and the home side went into the break a goal to the good.
As in the first half, the visitors started the second half on the front foot. Roberts picked the ball up on the right flank and raced past his marker before crossing to Smith, but he fired his shot over the bar.
Shields maintained the pressure on the home defence, but lacked a cutting edge as they were continually flagged offside and the home side held on to their advantage.
With game approaching the hour mark, Shields manager Jon King made the first change of the day, with Steven Graham replacing Stephenson.
Graham was instantly in the thick of the action, winning the ball in the centre of the park before releasing Sharp, but his shot was deflected for a corner. The resulting corner was fired into the box by Feasey, where Maitland rose above the defence to head the ball inches over the bar.
Shields again went close on 70 minutes as Graham fired a 25-yard shot just wide of the upright.
A minute later, a Shields free-kick on the right flank was tipped over the bar by Straker, and the resulting corner was cleared by the Alnwick defence.
With 15 minutes remaining, Smith and Roberts combined on the right to open up the Alnwick defence. Roberts fired a cross into the box for Sharp and he threw himself towards the ball, only to be denied by a superb reflex save by Starker.
The Mariners continued to press forward looking to restore parity. Salim raced down the left flank before cutting the ball back from the byline to Roberts, but his shot was blocked and the ball fell into the path of Smith on the edge of the box, but he fired his shot wide of the post.
With Shields pressing forward, they were hit on the counter and McClelland beat the offside trap to double the home side’s advantage.
From the restart, Shields broke forward and Maitland halved the deficit as he drove a shot in off the post to give them a crumb of hope, but despite their efforts, Alnwick held on to take the victory.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Hubery, Talbot, Feasey (Bell 86), Burn, Locke, Maitland, Roberts, Smith, Sharp, Stephenson (Graham 59), Salim.