Match Report: South Shields 2-0 Stafford Rangers

Match Report: South Shields 2-0 Stafford Rangers

South Shields made it eight home wins in a row as they produced a solid display to beat Stafford Rangers 2-0 in front of the highest crowd of the season at 1st Cloud Arena.

Goals in either half from JJ Hooper and Cedric Main ensured Shields took maximum points on Non-League Day to maintain the pressure on leaders Buxton at the top of the Pitching In Northern Premier League.

The game was watched by a tremendous gate of 2,676 after the club had earlier hosted iconic BBC show Football Focus as the Mariners were broadcast to the nation on a memorable day.

Stafford came into the game boasting the league’s best away record and chasing a play-off spot after a run of just one defeat in their previous 15 matches.

They created the first opportunity of the afternoon, but Jake Charles’ overhead kick was speculative and comfortably cleared the crossbar.

Jordan Hunter was prominent throughout the game on Shields’ right and he produced a fine cross on six minutes which was turned over by Hooper, a late addition to the starting line-up after Sam Hodgson was forced to withdraw through injury in the warm-up.

A better chance fell the way of Will McGowan when Stafford goalkeeper Mateusz Hewelt dropped a cross from Blair Adams, but he was unable to find the target from 10 yards as the visitors breathed a huge sight of relief.

Rangers grew from there and had their best spell of the match.

Set-piece specialist Tom Tonks warmed the palms of Myles Boney with a free-kick from the left of the box, with the Mariners goalkeeper doing well to push the ball over the bar.

Tonks went even closer within two minutes of that when he was found by a Kaiman Anderson cutback and struck the base of the post before the ball cannoned against Hunter and behind for a corner.

A long throw by Tonks was then hooked over by James O’Neill as Stafford continued to pressure, but Shields stemmed the flow of Stafford attacks and added some impetus of their own.

A dangerous Hooper cross was awkwardly cleared by Andrew Burns and although there were strong home appeals for a penalty, the referee waved play on.

Ten minutes before half-time, the breakthrough arrived for the Mariners.

Darius Osei played the ball into McGowan and he showed nifty footwork to beat Joe Dunne and slip in Hooper, who took a touch and produced a clinical finish to put his side in front.

There were further chances at both ends in the remainder of the first half, but neither goalkeeper was tested before the sides returned to the dressing rooms as Tonks was off target at one end and Adams was likewise at the other.

Stafford went close to equalising less than eight minutes after the restart when Alex Fletcher’s free-kick from the left found Tre Pemberton, but Boney ensured the ball did not squeeze past him with a smart stop at his near post.

Shields continued to regularly find Hunter on the right and he threatened his first goal of the season after Robert Briggs picked him out with a fine ball. After cutting inside, though, he could only fire over.

Stafford had two attempts to level things up as the second half reached its midpoint, with a powerful drive by Charles held by Boney and Anderson shooting over after a twist and turn outside the area.

The decisive moment arrived in the 74th minute, though, as the Mariners doubled their lead to effectively make the points safe.

Osei got the ball under control 10 yards inside the Stafford half before looping it over the top for Main to run onto, and the substitute raced through before dinking the ball into the bottom corner with a fine piece of composure.

Stafford are a spirited side and searched for a route back into the game, albeit to no avail.

Anderson had a header saved by Boney while at the other end, Main had a shot blocked and Osei dragged an effort past the post.

The Mariners were determined to keep a clean sheet but did not have things all their own way as they were made to sweat for it in the final minutes.

Boney did well to beat away a cross from substitute Theo Bailey-Jones and Shields had to scramble a cross to safety in the immediate aftermath.

Bailey-Jones also had an attempt deflected over from a Fletcher corner while in the second minute of stoppage time, Boney produced a tremendous fingertip save to deny Fletcher as his shot arrowed towards the top corner.

Shields saw it out to claim an important three points and ensure the gap to leaders Buxton stayed at two points after the Bucks were 3-0 victors at Witton Albion.

The Mariners are back in action next Saturday when they travel to Gainsborough Trinity.

Kevin Phillips’ side have five league matches remaining as they chase the one available automatic promotion spot.

They are now seven points clear of Matlock Town and Scarborough Athletic in third and fourth respectively after those sides played out a 0-0 draw

South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams (Kempster 79), Shaw, Morse, Bodenham, Rose (Wilding 64), Briggs, Hooper (Main 64), McGowan, Osei. Subs not used: Jenkins, Tee.

Goals: Hooper (35), Main (74).

Attendance: 2,676.

Image: Kev Wilson.