Brandon United 3-5 South Shields
By Daniel Prince
South Shields scored five times to make it four wins out of four – but they were pushed all the way after a spirited Brandon United comeback on Wednesday.
The Mariners earned themselves a commanding 4-0 lead with nine minutes left, with two goals from Paul Kane, as well as strikes from James Talbot and David Molloy.
However, Brandon kept fighting, and pulled it back to 4-3 with three goals in four minutes.
Talbot, though, scored his second with five minutes remaining as Shields made it 17 goals in four games as they moved up to sixth in Ebac Northern League Division Two.
They started strongly, and when David Molloy’s cross from the left of the box was headed out, Steven Graham zipped a shot just past the post.
Kane – who was a constant threat to the Brandon defence – cut an effort just off target on eight minutes, while Kempster volleyed a chance wide soon after from Barrie Smith’s cross.
Smith also saw a shot well cut out by home goalkeeper Thomas Orton, while Kempster fired over after a fine run and pass by Kane in the centre.
On 18 minutes, though, Brandon broke forward and produced an excellent chance of their own.
The impressive Craig Roberts went on a fine dribble before rolling the ball into the path of Aidan West, who could only slice wide.
West almost made up for that miss five minutes later after another Brandon counter-attack. Roberts was again at the heart of it as he played the ball to West, who turned inside Chris Locke before firing a shot across goal. The ball went inches wide of the far post, with a corner given as Shields goalkeeper Steven Hubery had got a touch on it.
Both sides were creating opportunities, and Smith’s right-wing cross for the Mariners was acrobatically cleared out for a corner by David Rush with Stephen Ramsey waiting.
Roberts, meanwhile, went on another good run on the left before shooting wide, while Talbot had to clear an effort by David Fort off the line.
That seemed to be the warning Shields needed, as on the half-hour mark, they struck.
It was a fine goal by Kane, who picked the ball up just outside the box on the left before lifting a right foot shot into the opposite top corner.
Chris Feasey’s shot was saved three minutes later, and the rebound fell to Kempster, who could only fire it off target.
Brandon were always dangerous on the break, with Roberts cutting a shot wide after an intelligent move involving Fort.
Kane was the Mariners’ biggest threat, and he almost made it 2-0 with a 30-yard pile-driver on 40 minutes, but it clipped the bar before going over.
There was still time for Roberts to head wide at the other end before the break, which Shields went into with a hard-earned 1-0 lead.
Aron Burn replaced Kempster at half-time, and within six minutes of the restart, Graham flicked an effort over from a Feasey corner.
Just a minute later, though, Hubery was on hand to make a fine save from Fort, who had been played in on the left of the box. Hubery came out to narrow the angle and then smothered the shot, with the ball coming out to Roberts, who could only send it over.
Almost immediately at the other end, a Feasey cross from deep evaded everyone, and Orton was forced to palm it behind for a corner.
Talbot saw a low shot saved on 57 minutes, while Roberts should have levelled for the home side soon after. After he was presented with the ball, he dribbled through the Shields defence before poking wide when through on goal.
The Mariners got a welcome second goal on 68 minutes through Talbot, who had switched from right-back to right midfield at half-time. After being found by Ramsey, his first shot was saved by Orton, but Talbot showed great persistence as he picked himself up to slot the rebound into the bottom corner.
The floodgates then started to open, with Molloy making it 3-0 three minutes later. There was more great work from Ramsey inside the box, and he played a terrific ball across goal which Molloy was on hand to slide in at the back post.
Ramsey saw a shot saved moments later, while Kane looked to have put the game beyond any reasonable doubt on 75 minutes. He turned his defender inside-out before calmly firing into the top corner, and the match appeared to be won.
However, Brandon were not ready to give up without a fight.
First, Roberts scored a terrific goal on 81 minutes to reward his fine work. His strike was reminiscent of Kane’s in the first half, as he worked the ball onto his right foot on the outside left of the box before curling it into the far corner.
It was the first goal Shields had conceded since Hebburn Town’s second goal on August 25, some 400 minutes of football ago.
Within a minute it was 4-2, with substitute George McCain beating Hubery with a superb chip on the right of the box.
Suddenly, the home side were back in it, and they made it three goals in four minutes when Roberts scored again. He got past Hubery before slotting in, and the momentum by now was all with Brandon.
However, almost immediately from the restart, Shields scored the game-clinching goal. Talbot again worked tirelessly to get the opportunity, and although his first shot was saved by Orton, he followed it in and tapped the rebound into an empty net.
It was end-to-end stuff, but that goal seemed to settle Shields down, and the only real chance in the closing stages fell to substitute David Conroy two minutes into stoppage time as he sliced a shot wide.
It was a nervous ending to an exciting game for the Mariners, but they did enough to get another three points on the board as they made it four wins in a row.
They will look to extend that sequence on Saturday, with Chester-le-Street Town the visitors to Peterlee for a 3pm kick-off in the league.
BRANDON UNITED: Orton, Rush, D Robinson, Fairhurst, Calvert, Ord, Tinkler (c), S Robinson, West, Roberts, Fort. Subs from: Thompson, King, Smith, McCain.
Goals: Roberts (81, 84), McCain (82).
SOUTH SHIELDS: Hubery, Talbot, Feasey (Pickering 80), White, Locke, Graham, Kempster (Burn 46), Smith (c) (Conroy 76), Ramsey, Molloy, Kane. Subs not used: Maitland, Sharp.
Goals: Kane (30, 75), Talbot (68, 85), Molloy (71).