Match Report: South Shields 4-2 Nantwich Town

Match Report: South Shields 4-2 Nantwich Town

JJ Hooper was the star of the show as his four goals sealed a pulsating comeback win for South Shields against Nantwich Town at a buoyant 1st Cloud Arena.

The Mariners found themselves two goals behind at the break despite largely dominating possession, with Sean Cooke firing Nantwich into the lead from the penalty spot before Jake Bickerstaff doubled their advantage with a fine finish.

Shields were handed a golden opportunity to pull one back seven minutes into the second half but Robert Briggs’ spot-kick struck the post, and the hosts may have been wondering at that stage if it was set to be one of those days.

Hooper changed the narrative, though, halving the deficit with a close-range finish just after the hour mark before a brace of headers completed his hat-trick and edged Kevin Phillips’ side in front.

The striker completed the scoring with his fourth two minutes from the end to seal a dramatic victory as the Mariners moved three points clear at the top of the Pitching In Northern Premier League.

Shields will hope this proves to be a pivotal day in the race for promotion after they were made to work tirelessly for their win.

They conceded the opening goal on the quarter-hour mark, with Cooke converting a penalty for Nantwich after Jack Bodenham was adjudged to have fouled Akiel Raffie in the area.

Mitch Rose was off target with two efforts as the Mariners probed for a quick equaliser, but the hosts fell further behind in the 24th minute when Bickerstaff displayed some impressive footwork on the left of the area before breaking into space and rifling a low shot into the bottom corner.

The home side’s response was strong in the remainder of the first half, but despite a series of strikes from Nathan Lowe, they were unable to pull a goal back before the break.

Shields began peppering their opponents’ goal after the interval and they looked set to half the deficit on 52 minutes when the visitors were penalised for a handball, but Briggs suffered a rare miss from the spot when his penalty came back off the post.

Undeterred, the Mariners did not let their heads drop and the onslaught continued.

Bodenham headed narrowly over from a Lowe corner and Sam Hodgson was denied by visiting goalkeeper Matty Gould before Hooper notched his first of the afternoon, touching home from close range after Hodgson clipped the ball past Gould.

Shields had the momentum at this stage and made it a quickfire double to pull back on level terms when Jordan Hunter and Lowe combined on the right and the latter’s delicate cross was brilliantly directed into the bottom corner by the head of Hooper.

With a raucous crowd of over 2,000 urging them on, the hosts continued to attack and they had a number of opportunities to take the lead for the first time, with Briggs shooting just wide from 20 yards and later being denied by Gould after some fine trickery in the box, and Hunter narrowly kept off the scoresheet when his cross-come-shot was clawed away by the goalkeeper.

At the other end, Myles Boney made an impressive stop from Cooke as Nantwich made a rare foray forward.

Despite their regular raids into the visitors’ final third, time looked to be running out for Shields until Hooper grabbed the decisive goal six minutes from time.

Again he had Lowe to thank for breaking Nantwich’s resolve, with the number seven delivering a peach of a cross from the right which Hooper met with a bullet header into the centre of the net.

There appeared no way back from there for the Dabbers and the points were sealed for the Mariners on 88 minutes when Briggs released Hooper on the inside-left of the area and the former Newcastle United forward made no mistake, beating Gould with a fine finish to cap an excellent performance.

It was a sixth straight victory on home soil for Shields, who now face a run of four consecutive away fixtures, starting at Ashton United on Tuesday.

South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams (c), Shaw, Morse, Bodenham, Lowe, Rose, Hodgson (Osei 76), Briggs, Hooper. Subs not used: Jenkins, McGowan, Tee, Kempster.

Goals: Hooper (61, 64, 84, 88).

Attendance: 2,119.

Image: Kev Wilson.