Billingham Town 1-1 South Shields
By Daniel Prince
Paul Kane’s second half penalty earned South Shields a share of the spoils at Billingham Town on Saturday.
The Mariners were unable to produce their best form in County Durham, but Kane’s 10th goal of the season ensured they took home a deserved point.
Before the game, a minute’s silence in memory of former Shields treasurer Kevin Law – who died two years ago to the day – was impeccably observed, while the away side also wore black armbands.
The start of the match was low-key, with Kane sending a 30-yard effort over the bar for the Mariners, and Michael Dalton heading wide for the hosts after a short corner led to a cross from Thomas Sweeney.
Billingham won a number of corners, but were unable to take advantage and as the half wore on, Shields gained some control.
David Molloy was denied with two shots, with the second of those deflecting into the arms of home goalkeeper Michael Thackeray.
An injury to Adam Sharp forced Shields into a change just after the half-hour mark, with Stephen Ramsey brought on to replace him.
After a decent spell by the Mariners, they fell behind two minutes before half-time.
A move down Billingham’s left led to a low cross by Matthew Dixon, and Dalton nipped ahead of the defenders to slot into the centre of the goal.
A minute later, Daniel Ballantyne let fly from range as he tried to double the hosts’ lead, but his effort went well over the bar.
Shields went in at the break a goal behind, but showed signs of improvement quickly in the second half.
A good move from the Mariners led to Molloy firing an effort into the side netting, before Kane got his big chance to bring them level.
James Talbot – who had an impressive game on the right – was brought down just inside the box, and Kane took the responsibility from the spot.
He sent the goalkeeper the wrong way, giving Shields’ top goalscorer his 10th goal of the season in all competitions from nine matches.
The goal, timed at 58 minutes, came just after some Shields confusion at the back almost handed Billingham a second goal, and seemed to give the Mariners a chance to take control.
Lloyd Evans, a new signing from Stokesley, came on to make his debut in place of Dan Hall, and the defender looked assured at the back.
However, Billingham could have gone 2-1 up on 65 minutes. Shields struggled with a ball into the box, and it fell to Nathan Mohun on the edge of the box, who sent it just over the bar with the outside of his foot.
Ramsey had a decent chance to put the Mariners in front soon after, but his shot was deflected over after a fine run and cross by Molloy.
Aron Burn had a header deflected wide from a Steven Graham cross as Shields enjoyed their best spell of the game, before Kane had the best opportunity to make it 2-1.
A short corner routine led to a cross by Graham from the left, and Kane headed it just past the post when he looked sure to hit the target.
That was to be as close as Shields got to winning the three points, with stand-in goalkeeper Colin White on hand at the other end to palm a 25-yard effort from Andrew Lambert over the bar.
He also kept out a shot from Gary Redman, who was sent off on 85 minutes for two bookings.
Evans had a decent chance to become an instant Shields hero a minute later, but he headed over after Burn nodded the ball to him.
Billingham limited the Mariners after that, though, and could have taken the three points themselves, only for Ballantyne to fire over after being played in on the right.
Both sides were eventually forced to settle for a point, which brought to an end Shields’ run of four straight losses in all competitions.
Jon King’s side next travel to Seaham Red Star for another Ebac Northern League Division Two fixture on Saturday.
BILLINGHAM TOWN: Thackeray, Sweeney, Dixon, Toman, Bishop, Browne, Ballantyne, Dalton, Mohun, Lambert (c), Redman. Subs: Farrel, Armes, Wilkinson, H Taylor, Craggs.
Goal: Dalton (43).
Sent off: Redman (85).
SOUTH SHIELDS: White, Hall (Evans 60), Feasey, Burn, Locke (c), Graham, Talbot, Maitland (Kempster 55), Sharp (Ramsey 31), Molloy, Kane. Subs not used: Conroy, Bell.
Goal: Kane (pen 58).
Booked: Hall, Burn, Locke.