Match Report: Whitby Town 2-2 South Shields
JJ Hooper and Jacob Hazel shared four goals as South Shields were twice pegged back by Whitby Town in an entertaining encounter in North Yorkshire.
Hooper twice put the Mariners in front with smart finishes but on both occasions Hazel hit back as the clash between two of the Pitching In Northern Premier League’s top five ended all-square.
In their final outing of 2021, Shields could not have started much brighter.
They took the lead after just 15 seconds when Hooper flicked the ball to Cedric Main down the right and he burst forward before pulling it back to Hooper, who had continued running and picked out the top corner from 12 yards.
Main was in menacing mood and provided a constant threat on the right channel. His cross almost set up a second goal for Hooper on four minutes, but Whitby goalkeeper Shane Bland saved his header from point-blank range before the flag went up for offside.
It was an encouraging start from the Mariners as they looked to respond to their 2-1 defeat to Hyde United a fortnight earlier, but Whitby came into the game in impressive form and showed a glimpse of why when Bradley Fewster shifted the ball onto his left foot and fired not far wide.
The Seasiders equalised in their next attack thanks to some fine team play as Jassem Sukar’s cross from the left was chested by Fewster into the path of Hazel, who rolled the ball into the bottom corner with a first-time finish.
Hazel had 13 league goals to his name heading into the match and was a thorn in Shields’ side. His free-kick almost gave the hosts the lead but whistled narrowly wide of Myles Boney’s net.
After Shields’ blistering start, the game had developed into a more even contest as both teams created opportunities.
Main continued to threaten the Whitby back-line and outmuscled Sukar before finding Will McGowan, who turned and tried to play it on to Conor Tee, but an excellent interception by Soni Fergus denied him just as he was about to pull the trigger.
Nathan Lowe and Hooper both had efforts from the edge of the box as the Mariners probed for a goal which would put them back in front, but the former dragged a shot wide and Hooper’s strike was comfortably gathered by Bland.
At the other end, Hazel was off target from 20 yards and Fewster tried to catch Boney out with a powerful half volley from the inside-left channel, but the Shields goalkeeper was equal to his effort. Fewster also sent a long-range shot narrowly wide just before half-time.
Early in the second half, headers from Dillon Morse and Callum Ross were saved by Bland as the Mariners took control, and there was also a left-foot strike from Hooper which drifted narrowly past the post.
Whitby kept Shields at bay but their resistance was broken 16 minutes from the end.
Ross won possession 10 yards inside his own half and his ball forward was superbly dinked beyond the home defence by substitute Robert Briggs. Hooper was quickest to react as he attacked the space between the defence and Bland, took it round the Seasiders goalkeeper and finished clinically into an empty net.
The visitors could not hold out for victory, though, with Hazel equalising for a second time with nine minutes remaining.
Patient build-up play was rewarded when Fewster dummied and allowed the ball to run through to Hazel, who fired in from 15 yards via the post to hand Whitby a share of the spoils.
The result kept Shields fourth in the Pitching In Northern Premier League ahead of their meeting with Scarborough Athletic at 1st Cloud Arena on New Year’s Day.
South Shields: Boney, Rose, Adams (c), Ross, Morse, Bodenham, Tee (Kempster 79), Lowe, Hooper, McGowan (Briggs 68), Main. Subs not used: Shaw, Jenkins, Hodgson.
Goals: Hooper (1, 74).
Image: Kev Wilson.