Match Report: South Shields 2-0 Morpeth Town
Nathan Lowe’s moment of supreme quality and a fine finish from Sam Hodgson settled a tense North East derby as South Shields returned to winning ways with a deserved victory over Morpeth Town at 1st Cloud Arena.
Lowe curled a terrific effort into the top corner just short of the hour mark as Shields’ domination of the ball was rewarded with the opening goal.
Hodgson stepped off the bench to seal the three points with a perfectly placed shot which ended Morpeth’s resistance and delivered the Mariners a vital three points.
Graham Fenton made two changes to the Shields XI which started against Basford United three days earlier, with Jon Shaw and Lowe introduced in place of Jack Bodenham and Will McGowan.
The Mariners started in composed fashion and immediately took control of possession as they probed for an early breakthrough.
That was not forthcoming, but the first sniff of goal came in the eighth minute as Darius Osei scurried past Joe Walton on the right of the area and pulled a dangerous ball across the area which Alex Kempster was just unable to get clean contact on.
Osei was again the creator midway through the half when he twisted and turned his way into some space before firing in a cross which Kempster headed over.
Kempster was central to many of the hosts’ attacks and he saw a strong appeal for a penalty waved away when Blair Adams swung in a cross from the left and the forward went down under a challenge from Jeff Henderson.
Shields’ dominance in possession continued throughout the first half but Morpeth remained resilient and restricted their opponents to half-chances, with Dan Martin having an effort deflected wide, Dillon Morse heading past the post from a corner and Callum Ross seeing a header comfortably saved. Robert Briggs also had a free-kick saved before the half was out.
After a distinct lack of goalscoring opportunities in the first 45 minutes, the deadlock was almost broken just 20 seconds after the restart as Ben Ramsey attacked down the right for the visitors and got in behind before firing past the post.
The lively start to the second half continued as Shields went close to opening the scoring, with Briggs’ free-kick from 30 yards headed narrowly wide by Morse.
The breakthrough arrived a minute short of the hour mark as Lowe picked out the top corner with a delicious strike from 20 yards which left Lowson grasping at thin air and a crowd of over 2,000 celebrating with the lustiest of roars.
The game had been in need of a moment of quality and Lowe certainly provided it. However, Shields knew that the job was a long way from being done and a response from Morpeth was to be expected.
They fired a warning on 63 minutes when Liam Noble’s effort from distance was well-struck and forced Myles Boney into a decent save.
The Mariners had two sighters of goal as Morse was just unable to divert a Briggs corner goalwards and Kempster narrowly failed to connect with a Martin cross.
The visitors had the next major chance, though, and almost equalised when Ramsey got in down the right and Boney closed the angle but could only watch the ball sail over him and into the side netting.
Shields introduced Hodgson from the bench in place of the limping Adams and he almost made an immediate impact as he drifted in from the left and fired a shot which was deflected wide.
Hodgson’s substitution proved to be inspired and he settled the game with eight minutes left as he was found by Osei and took a touch before brilliantly finding the bottom corner with a placed finish from the edge of the box.
There was no way back from there for Morpeth as the Mariners sent their large and vociferous support with smiles on their faces.
They will go in search of another victory when they travel to league leaders Matlock Town on Saturday.
South Shields: Boney, Martin, Adams (c) (Hodgson 74), Shaw, Morse, Ross, Tee (Bodenham 82), Briggs, Osei, Lowe (McGowan 90+6), Kempster. Subs: Rossiter, Stead.
Goals: Lowe (59), Hodgson (82).
Image: Kev Wilson.