Match Report: Stafford Rangers 1-1 South Shields
Nathan Lowe’s sublime free-kick earned a point for South Shields as they came from behind to draw 1-1 at Stafford Rangers on Saturday.
The Mariners were behind after Joe Cuff fired in for the home side seven minutes before half-time, but Lowe’s superb effort from 25 yards levelled the scores early in the second half.
Shields gathered momentum as they sought to inflict a first defeat in 11 league games on Stafford, but despite creating two clear opportunities for a winner, they were unable to find a way through for a second time.
Mitch Rose was sent off for a second booking in the closing stages as the Mariners were forced to settle for a draw which kept them top of the Pitching In Northern Premier League.
In the first meeting between the sides since November 2019, Shields made two changes to the team which started the match against Ashton United four days earlier, with the injured Jon Shaw replaced by Alex Kempster and Darius Osei coming in for Sam Hodgson.
Playing against the wind in the first half, the away side started well and created the first opportunity when JJ Hooper and Osei linked up well on the left before each advancing towards the box. Hooper maneuvered his way into a crossing position and delivered to Osei, who headed wide.
Although neither team was in control, most of the rare chances in the opening 45 minutes went the way of Shields. Kempster headed narrowly over from a Jordan Hunter cross and Hooper volleyed over from 12 yards after a flick-on from Osei.
The only attempt at goal from the hosts was a strike from Tre Pemberton which was blocked by Jack Bodenham, with Shields defending a number of long throws effectively.
Seven minutes before the interval, though, Tom Tonks delivered another bullet of a throw from the left flank into the box and it fell to the feet of Cuff, who rifled the ball past Myles Boney.
Shields were delivered a further blow at half-time when Hunter was forced off with a head injury, but Conor Tee performed well in the right wing-back role to help cover for that loss.
Parity was restored in the 54th minute as Lowe lined up a free-kick 25 yards from goal and whipped it into the top corner to spark a short period of domination from the Mariners which they hoped would result in a potentially decisive second goal.
Despite their best efforts, though, it did not arrive.
Osei was tenacious on the left flank and forced an opportunity within three minutes of the restart as he powered his way through, but his cut-back was fired wide by Hooper.
An even better opportunity was presented to Dillon Morse just after the hour mark when Lowe’s corner found him at point-blank range, but the ball came at the defender quickly and he could only head it over.
Stafford stemmed the flow of Shields attacks and although there were some further half-chances for the visitors, they were unable to trouble Mateusz Hewelt in the Rangers goal.
Their task was made more difficult when Rose was forced to sit out the final three minutes after receiving a second yellow card, and the final moments passed with little incident as the teams took home a point apiece.
The Mariners now have a midweek without a game before returning to action at Basford United next Saturday.
South Shields: Boney, Hunter (Tee 46), Adams (c), Rose, Morse, Bodenham, Lowe, Briggs (McGowan 78), Hooper (Jenkins 90), Osei, Kempster. Subs not used: Rossiter, Hodgson.
Goal: Lowe (54).
Red card: Rose (87).
Image: Kev Wilson.