Match report: Witton Albion 0-1 South Shields
Blair Adams continued his excellent goalscoring form as his second half strike earned South Shields a hard-fought 1-0 win at Witton Albion on Saturday.
It was a third successive victory for the Mariners and a third goal in as many games for the left-back as he helped his side to the top of the early Pitching In Northern Premier League table.
Wincham Park is a venue which has provided Shields with plenty of challenges in the past and it proved to be another battle for Graham Fenton’s side.
They were unable to find their best levels in the first half despite dominating possession, with clear-cut opportunities in short supply.
Ntumba Massanka drew a decent save from Witton goalkeeper Greg Hall with a low strike from the edge of the box and Darius Osei was also denied from similar range.
Although the Mariners did not demonstrate the level of sharpness they were looking for in the opening 45 minutes, there were several further sights of goal.
The closest they came before half-time was a bullet of a strike from distance by Osei which narrowly cleared the crossbar, while Callum Ross also provided a threat as he stole the ball in midfield and drove forward before curling a shot over.
As the first half ticked into stoppage time Nathan Lowe collected the ball just inside the Shields half and spotted an opportunity no one else on the pitch did as he fired goalwards. The ball hung in the air and looked set to cause Hall a major problem, but he composed himself well to prevent what would have been a spectacular goal.
Shields were sent out for the second half with the instruction to improve their creativity, intensity and sharpness, but they were dealt a major setback within moments of the restart as Jon Shaw was forced off with an injury.
His replacement, Will Jenkins, performed impressively to lessen the blow and provide the Mariners with added impetus going forward.
In the 51st minute, Shields were left scratching their heads as to how they had not opened the scoring.
A blistering strike from the right by Lowe crashed against the crossbar and bounced just the wrong side of the line before falling to Massanka, who also struck the woodwork with a header.
Shields quickly won possession back and Osei was the next to go close, with his powerful effort from 20 yards kept out by a terrific fingertip save by Hall.
It was exactly the start to the second half the Mariners had been looking for, and their reward came on 57 minutes.
Dillon Morse clipped the ball forward and Massanka held it up brilliantly with his head before laying it off to Adams, who dinked it over a defender to break through on goal before slotting past Hall to find the target yet again and break the deadlock.
Osei created a glorious chance for Shields to double their lead as he split the Witton defence with a ball which found Massanka, but as he attempted to round Hall defenders quickly covered to avert the danger.
Alex Kempster was introduced from the bench in the closing stages and he provided a constant threat as the game became stretched.
He felt he should have had a penalty with 12 minutes left after linking up well with Massanka, but after he was challenged and knocked to the ground, play was waved on.
Kempster was a thorn in Albion’s side again less than a minute later as he was found by Massanka on the right of the area, but this time he fired over.
Witton’s biggest threat came from set-pieces but Shields prevented any pressure being built with a number of clearances and impressive claims from Myles Boney, while they continued to enjoy the majority of possession.
They saw out the victory to send the superb travelling support home happy.
The Mariners will look for a fourth successive win on Tuesday when they welcome FC United of Manchester to 1st Cloud Arena.
South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams, Shaw (Jenkins 47), Morse, Bodenham, Osei (Kempster 76), Ross, Massanka, Lowe, Briggs (c). Subs not used: McGowan, Tee, Hodgson.
Goal: Adams (57).
Image: Kev Wilson.