Bamber Bridge 1-2 South Shields: Second half comeback delivers vital three points
South Shields came from behind to move six points clear at the top of the BetVictor Northern Premier Division with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Bamber Bridge on Saturday.
The Mariners found themselves in a difficult position when substitute Alistair Waddecar fired the hosts ahead with a well-taken goal just before half-time.
They had to show tremendous battling and technical qualities after the break to force their way back on level terms, with Josh Gillies delivering the equaliser just after the hour mark.
Jason Gilchrist headed in what proved to be the winner 16 minutes from the end as the Mariners maintained their tremendous away form and strengthened their hopes of promotion ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Nantwich Town.
Lee Picton and Graham Fenton made just one change to the side which won 4-1 at Gainsborough Trinity the previous weekend, with Gillies introduced in place of the departed Dom McHale.
The start to the game was relatively even, with neither side seriously threatening an opening goal until Gillies crashed a 25 yard free-kick against the crossbar on 20 minutes and the rebound from Darius Osei was hacked clear.
Shields sensed an opening and attacked their hosts again less than a minute later as Osei beat his man down the left of the box before drilling a low effort which goalkeeper Michael Crowe did well to save with his feet.
Myles Boney was untroubled in the Mariners’ goal until six minutes before half-time when he saved from Waddecar before a further shot from the same player was deflected wide.
Bamber Bridge were beginning to seize control of possession and at that stage Shields would have settled for going in at the break goalless, but that prospect was taken away from them when a long ball from Crowe was collected by Waddecar on the left channel and he swivelled before brilliantly clipping an effort home from a tight angle.
Brig picked up where they left off at the start of the second half and had a golden opportunity to double their lead less than a minute after the restart, but Chris Marlow volleyed wide when well placed in the box.
The home side were even more energetic than they had been in the first half but Shields gained a foothold and had their first chance of an equaliser when Nathan Lowe slipped a ball through to Gilchrist and he was twice denied by blocks from Crowe.
The Mariners thought they had equalised in the 55th minute when Dillon Morse headed in but the offside flag cut short the celebrations, and Shields felt hard done by again when a cross by Gillies appeared to strike the arm of a defender but no penalty was given.
Despite that frustration there was a sense that a goal was on its way, and it duly arrived on 61 minutes.
Blair Adams, Gillies and Gilchrist combined before Phil Turnbull beat his man on the left flank and sent in a cross which bounced in the danger zone and was chested down by Gillies, who turned the ball past Crowe with his second touch.
Shields continued the momentum and found what proved to be the winning goal 16 minutes before the end.
Morse sent Osei scampering down the left with a controlled pass from the back and the forward impressively beat a defender before firing in a cross which Gilchrist was on hand to head home from close range.
The Mariners expected a response from Brig and got it, with Jon Shaw forced to block a shot from Sheldon Green and Myles Boney having to claim more than one dangerous cross into the area.
The introduction of Bali Mumba for his debut injected even more energy and excitement into Shields, though, and he almost wrapped things up in stoppage time when he breezed past a defender before firing into the side netting.
A third goal was ultimately not required as the Mariners extended their advantage at the top ahead of Tuesday’s trip to another promotion contender, Nantwich Town.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Hunter, Adams, Shaw (c), Morse, Turnbull (Briggs 65), Baxter (Verstraaten 62), Lowe, Gilchrist (Mumba 80), Osei, Gillies. Subs not used: Brown, Ross.
Goals: Gillies (61), Gilchrist (74).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.