Match Report: South Shields 3-1 Matlock Town

Match Report: South Shields 3-1 Matlock Town

South Shields climbed to the top of the Pitching In Northern Premier League with an impressive 3-1 win over Matlock Town in front of the league’s biggest crowd of the season to date.

JJ Hooper and Sam Hodgson netted inside the first 24 minutes at 1st Cloud Arena to hand the Mariners a two-goal advantage which was quickly halved by a Ioan Evans header.

The majority of the 2,639 supporters in attendance were sent home happy after Jack Bodenham nodded in a deserved third for the hosts just after the hour mark to seal the three points.

The result moved Shields above Matlock and leaders Buxton to claim top spot for the first time since early October.

The Mariners opted for a change in formation as they looked to respond to a 1-0 defeat at Mickleover in their previous outing, with Jon Shaw reintroduced to the line-up as part of a back three while Jordan Hunter and Blair Adams operated as wing-backs, and Hooper partnered Hodgson in attack.

The intent of the home side was evident from kick-off and the switches almost paid an immediate dividend when Adams’ cross from the left was collected by fellow wing-back Hunter and laid off to Hodgson, who swept a shot just wide from 12 yards.

Hunter was at the heart of many of Shields’ forays forward and another burst from the right-back led to him finding Nathan Lowe, whose strike from 25 yards dipped but cleared the crossbar.

The breakthrough arrived on 11 minutes as the Mariners were rewarded for their bright start.

Hodgson nodded a clipped pass by Dillon Morse into the path of his strike partner Hooper, whose controlled half-volley took a slight deflection off Reece Kendall to beat visiting goalkeeper Joe Young.

Shields were well on top and almost had a spectacular second when Hunter took up a central position and whistled an effort just past the post from 25 yards with his less-favoured left foot.

Just after the midway point in the first half, the home team did double their lead after a fine team move.

It culminated when Lowe and Robert Briggs combined to release Hodgson down the inside-left of the box and he did the rest, lifting a superb finish past Young to become the club’s joint top goalscorer for the season with eight.

Matlock came into the match knowing they would go top themselves with a win, and they indicated they were not ready to give up that opportunity by pulling a goal back within two minutes of the restart.

Alex Byrne curled in a cross from the left and Ioan Evans broke forward to head it home and give the Gladiators a route back into the game.

They were almost level in their next attack, but Byrne could only hit the post with a close-range header as Shields breathed a sigh of relief.

The Mariners responded well and could have had a penalty when Hooper was challenged in the area, but the appeals were waved away and the sides remained separated by a goal heading into the interval.

The hosts again asserted themselves well after the break and had a number of attempts to extend their advantage.

Lowe saw a low shot from distance beaten away by Young and Hodgson volleyed over from a Hunter cross before going closer still when his diving header was brilliantly saved.

Boney had earlier scrambled to his left to prevent an own goal but Shields were on top, and grabbed a crucial third goal in the 62nd minute.

Lowe curled in a superb corner from the left and Bodenham met it on the run before directing a brilliant header into the top corner, to the delight of the huge home support.

The Mariners were rarely troubled after that and managed the game well to see out a crucial victory and take their place at the top of the table.

They will hope to build on the positive performance and result when they host Nantwich Town on Saturday.

South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams (c), Shaw, Morse, Bodenham, Lowe (Jenkins 77), Rose, Hodgson (Osei 66), Briggs, Hooper (Kempster 90+2). Subs not used: McGowan, Tee.

Goals: Hooper (9), Hodgson (24), Bodenham (62).

Attendance: 2,639.

Image: Kev Wilson.