Birtley Town 3-1 South Shields
By Daniel Prince. Match sponsored by: Camping and Caravan Direct
South Shields conceded three times in 12 second half minutes as they fell to a 3-1 loss at Birtley Town on Saturday.
In the proverbial game of two halves, the Mariners had much the better of the play in the first 45 minutes, and perhaps should have gone in at the break more than 1-0 ahead.
They were made to pay for that in the second half as Jak Mitchell struck a hat-trick to condemn Shields to defeat.
Niki Lawson made his second Shields debut between the sticks, in the process becoming the ninth player to start a game in goal for the club this season.
Chris Feasey, meanwhile, made his 250th appearance for Shields, and was presented with an award for the landmark by club stalwart Richard Bailey (see above image) before the match.
Things could not have started much better for the Mariners, who came out of the blocks swiftly and took the lead within three minutes.
Aron Burn slipped the ball through for Dan Hall, whose shot was parried by home goalkeeper Sean Hall. David Molloy pounced on the loose ball and fired in the rebound as he notched his 10th goal of the season.
Shields were having much the better of the play, with Molloy enjoying a particularly productive start.
After being played in by Abu Salim, he shot over, while Lawson had to make his first save at the other end as he comfortably denied Chris Waistell.
That was a rare chance for Birtley, and Molloy had a shot blocked soon after before Salim sent an effort over, with the offside flag up.
Shields top scorer Paul Kane also shot over the top, while some great interplay by James Talbot, Craig Roberts and Molloy led to an effort from Kane which just went past the post.
Hall had a huge chance to make it 2-0 two minutes before the half-hour mark.
Salim played a terrific through ball to the Scotsman, who sent a shot across goal which went inches wide.
Birtley did have a good opportunity of their own, though, with substitute Daniel Maddison chipping Lawson before seeing the effort come back off the post.
Arguably the biggest talking point of the first half came on 30 minutes.
The hosts failed to play the ball out from the back and presented the ball to Salim inside the box. His first touch took him and the ball towards the goalkeeper Hall, who appeared to bring him down.
However, the referee waved the Shields appeals away, and Salim later had to go off with an injury picked up in the incident.
Daniel Reeves replaced him to make his Mariners debut before half-time.
Kane fired another shot over just prior to the break, which Shields went into (including Molloy, pictured above) slightly disappointed having not established a more comfortable lead.
Jon King’s side started the second half relatively strongly, with Feasey (below) winning the ball in the centre of the park before playing it to Roberts, who curled an effort not far over.
On 55 minutes, though, Birtley grabbed an equaliser.
Derek Waters’ free-kick from the left was met by Joe Gill, whose header across goal came back off the post. The rebound fell to Mitchell, who powered it past Lawson.
The home side grew in confidence from there, and took the lead within three minutes.
Shields lost the ball in a dangerous area, and Mitchell again was the man to pounce as he gave Lawson no chance by smashing it into the roof of the net.
At the other end, Molloy’s cross was got to first by a defender when Talbot looked likely to score, before Birtley struck their third goal in 12 minutes to seal their victory.
Maddison’s shot from the left of the box was parried by Lawson, but Mitchell was again the player on hand to tap into an empty net as he completed his quickfire hat-trick.
The game had slipped away from Shields in little over 10 minutes, and time was now running out for them to force anything out of the Ebac Northern League Division Two fixture.
Lawson held a shot from Lee Best, while Burn’s header at the other end from a Talbot corner was cleared off the line.
Hall was next to aim for goal, and his piledriver from 30 yards went just past the post.
Shields were pushing for a route back into the game, with Molloy sending an acrobatic volley over from substitute Adam Sharp’s cross before Kane had an effort blocked and Roberts was denied by Hall.
Talbot (pictured above) had a shot beaten away by Hall, while Maddison shot into the side netting at the other end as the home side held out for a 3-1 victory – the same scoreline they beat Shields by at the venue last season.
Shields – who have now won just once in 10 league games – will hope to get back to winning ways on Tuesday, when they host Tow Law Town at Peterlee in the Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup. Kick-off is at 7.30pm.
BIRTLEY TOWN: Hall, Soulsby, Boyd, Quine, Oxley (c), Gill, Mitchell, Waters, Best, Waistell, Watson. Subs (from): Calvert, Nicholson, Maddison, Peacock, Cowell.
Goals: Mitchell (55, 58, 67).
SOUTH SHIELDS: Lawson, Stephenson (Sharp 65), Feasey, Locke, Burn, Hall, Talbot, Roberts, Kane, Molloy, Salim (Reeves 41). Sub not used: Hubery.
Goal: Molloy (3).