David Foley scored a stunning late winner as South Shields pulled off a dramatic comeback win against Billingham Town on Tuesday.
The Mariners trailed 2-0 before three strikes in the final 12 minutes ensured they chalked up their first league victory of the campaign.
For so long, it looked like the two goals they conceded in the first half would prove costly, but Leepaul Scroggins, Warren Byrne and Foley all scored late on in front of a thrilled crowd of 371 at Mariners Park.
Manager Jon King made four changes to his starting line-up from Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Northallerton Town, with Ryan Beal, Michael Turner, Adam Sakr and Jonny Wightman all brought in.
They were almost ahead within 55 seconds when a move down the left led to Foley pulling the ball back to Wightman, and his first-time drive from the edge of the box struck the crossbar before bouncing towards the goal-line, with the officials ruling it had not crossed the line.
Despite Shields’ bright opening, though, it was Billingham who took the lead. The ball was played over to the right, where Dan Maloney brilliantly lobbed Beal from 25 yards to break the deadlock.
The Mariners picked up where they left off before the goal, and a big chance arrived when Sakr and Barrie Smith linked up to release Wightman, who dragged a shot wide.
Lee Scott also headed over from a Turner cross, while a huge opportunity came and went when Sakr delivered and Scott missed his kick, before Turner fired wide.
The hosts were made to pay for those missed chances when Town struck again in a rare attack. Callum Crocker’s acrobatic effort was palmed by Beal to Craig Lines, who composed himself and converted the rebound.
Shields appeared shell-shocked to find themselves two goals behind, just three days after conceding three first half goals without replying against Northallerton.
They continued to create half-chances before the break, with Wayne Buchanan narrowly failing to get contact on a Wightman corner and Foley nodding wide, but they went back to the dressing room still two goals adrift.
It was almost one-way traffic in the second half, and Scott headed one chance wide before Foley so nearly drew Shields back to within a goal of their visitors. Scott’s shot was parried to the former Hartlepool United forward, who drilled an effort at goal which was superbly blocked by Ian Bishop.
Wightman and Scott were the next to be denied, while Foley and substitute Byrne nudged efforts just wide as it appeared the Mariners were in for a frustrating night and a second straight defeat.
However, they did not relent, and appeared to get stronger the longer the game went on.
A shot from Foley was held by goalkeeper Shaun Scotter, while substitute Joe Melvin beat two men before having an effort deflected behind.
Shields finally got off the mark on 78 minutes when a terrific corner by Wightman fell perfectly for Scroggins, and he forced in a header from close range.
In the next attack, Wightman had an effort blocked, while Lee McMahon’s shot was deflected behind for a corner, from which Turner headed wide.
Melvin had another shot saved, and there was controversy on 82 minutes when Scotter appeared to carry the ball outside his box with his hands, but nothing was given by the officials.
Just as it appeared Shields were running out of time, they pulled back on level terms with two minutes of regulation time left.
Wightman’s effort was deflected to Melvin, whose shot was parried by Scotter to Byrne. He took a touch, lined up the shot and forced it over the line.
The best was saved until last, though, as Foley rounded off the comeback with a goal worthy of winning any game.
As the ball was bounced across to him just outside the box on the left, there appeared to be little on, but he hit a first-time volley across the goalkeeper and into the far corner to spark scenes of jubilation at Mariners Park.
There was little time for Billingham to respond, and Shields were continuing to get stronger, so there appeared little chance that the visitors would provide another sting in the tail.
Indeed, it was the Mariners who went closest to extending their margin of victory, with the ever-dangerous Foley breaking through before seeing his attempted pass across goal cut out.
Adam Curry even had a cheeky effort from his own half which Scotter kept out, while Byrne looked set to grab Shields’ fourth when he was sent through on goal, but he was superbly tackled at the last by a defender.
The final whistle then sounded to spark more celebrations on the pitch and on the sidelines as Shields were able to enjoy their first league win of the season.
They will hope to follow it up with maximum points again on Saturday, with Darlington RA the visitors to Mariners Park from 3pm.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Beal, Smith, Turner, Buchanan (Curry 57), Galpin, McMahon, Sakr (Melvin 73), Scroggins (c), Wightman, Scott (Byrne 59), Foley. Subs not used: Young, Chapim.
Goals: Scroggins (78), Byrne (88), Foley (89).
You can view a full slideshow of images from the game here: In Pictures – South Shields 3-2 Billingham Town