Chester-le-Street 2-4 South Shields
By Daniel Prince
South Shields capped off a fine week by coming from 2-0 down to claim a 4-2 win at Chester-le-Street in a pulsating game at Moor Park on Saturday.
The Mariners – who booked their place in the Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup semi-finals in midweek – got off to the worst possible start at Chester-le-Street, falling two goals behind within 15 minutes.
However, after Chris Rue got them back into it before half-time, goals from James Talbot, Paul Kane and Stephen Ramsey handed Jon King’s side a deserved victory, while there was even time for Barrie Smith to have a penalty saved.
King named an unchanged starting line-up from Tuesday’s 3-0 win over Birtley Town, and Shields made a positive start.
The first half-chance arrived for Talbot within five minutes after Rue squeezed the ball through to him in the box, but his shot was blocked into goalkeeper Aiden Ames’ arms.
A dangerous Rue cross was cut out moments later, while a Ben Riding long throw caused havoc as the Mariners looked for a breakthrough.
However, Chester-le-Street advanced on 10 minutes, and after the ball was fired in to Michael Hepplewhite in the box, he went over after a challenge by Michael Turner and a penalty was given.
Hepplewhite picked himself up to send Niki Lawson the wrong way from the spot, but the Mariners responded positively to the blow of going behind, with another Rue cross just cut out before it reached Ramsey.
Shields were the architects of their own downfall on the quarter-hour mark as they fell another goal behind.
The visitors opted to take a short corner, and when Rue’s cross was blocked, Chester-le-Street broke. Steven Telford sent a long ball through the centre for Hepplewhite to chase, and his shot was parried by Lawson. However, Ben Johnson had also countered with Hepplewhite, and he was on hand to sweep in the rebound from six yards.
Kane came on for Shields at the expense of Chris Feasey, and on 36 minutes, they found a way back into the game.
Rue picked up the ball 35 yards out on the right flank, and his over-hit cross deceived Ames, looping in off the far post. However, the linesman flagged for offside against Ramsey in the centre, and Shields were furious that their goal had seemingly been chalked off. After consulting with his assistant, though, the referee ruled Ramsey had not been interfering with play, and the goal stood, giving Rue his first goal for the club.
The Mariners had enjoyed some good play prior to that, with a number of set-pieces causing Chester-le-Street problems.
The goal got the confidence flowing, though, and Shields put their hosts under serious pressure in the minutes before half-time.
First, Talbot had a shot palmed wide by Ames, and from the resulting corner, Ramsey’s header came back off the post before bouncing into the goalkeeper’s arms.
Shields went in at the break a goal behind, but the momentum appeared to be with them, and they started the second half on the front foot.
King opted to switch to a 3-5-2 formation, and within two minutes of the restart, his side were on level terms.
Riding’s bullet throw from the right was nodded on by Aron Burn, and although Ames pushed it out, the ball fell to Talbot six yards out, and he hammered it past the defenders on the line to notch his 10th goal of a productive season.
Chester-le-Street went close soon after, with Johnson curling a free-kick just over, but Shields looked the more likely side to score, and took the lead in spectacular fashion just after the hour mark.
Riding picked up the ball on the inside-right of the box and touched the ball back to Kane just outside the area. First time, he curled a shot into the opposite top corner as he added another top-drawer strike to his growing collection.
Another fine goal extended Shields’ advantage on 64 minutes. Lee Maitland led a quick break before playing the ball out to Kane on the right, and he attacked his man before sending a cross into the centre. Ramsey stole a march on his man to get ahead of him and head the ball into the bottom corner as he scored for the second match in a row.
The Mariners had numerous opportunities to make their victory more emphatic in the final 20 minutes.
Riding had a header cleared off the line, with Ramsey’s rebound blocked, while another Riding header was tipped over by Ames when it looked set to loop over him.
A Talbot corner led to another headed chance for Riding, but this time Ames palmed it wide.
Shields were awarded a penalty with 10 minutes left after a foul in the box. However, Ames got down well to his left to keep out Smith’s effort.
In the closing stages, the home side started to threaten again, but they could not find a way past Lawson.
He denied Johnson with his legs after he got through on the left, while the same player looked sure to score with four minutes left. However, after splitting the Shields defence and finding himself one-on-one with Lawson, he missed his kick and the ball hit his standing leg before bouncing out for a goal-kick.
Lawson also kept out a free-kick near the end, and the Mariners saw the game out to take a deserved three points at Moor Park.
Shields are next in action on Saturday, when they entertain Washington at Peterlee in Ebac Northern League Division Two from 3pm.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Lawson, Locke (c), Turner, Burn, Riding, Maitland (Fixot 68), Rue, Smith, Ramsey (Kempster 74), Talbot, Feasey (Kane 32). Subs not used: Crutwell, Ward.
Goals: Rue (36), Talbot (47), Kane (61), Ramsey (64).
CHESTER-LE-STREET: Ames, Telford, Grant-Soulsby, Stephenson, K Dixon, Hamblin, Herron, Draper, Johnson, M Hepplewhite, Honour. Subs (from): Scott, Cresswell, O’Neill, Marron, Duggan.
Goals: M Hepplewhite (pen 10), Johnson (15).