Matlock Town 1 VS 2 South Shields
South Shields ended Matlock Town’s unbeaten start to the season as a superb away performance set the platform for a 2-1 win in Derbyshire.
The victory was hard-fought but deserved for the Mariners as they bounced back from their Emirates FA Cup replay defeat at Colne four days earlier.
Captain Jon Shaw – deployed in a striking role – broke the deadlock less than a minute into the second half with a stunning volley from just outside the box.
Vice captain Robert Briggs doubled the lead with a nerveless penalty before the hour mark and although Marcus Marshall pulled one back for the hosts towards the end, Shields held firm to claim a welcome three points.
Joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton introduced Shaw and Briggs to the Shields starting line-up, and the early signs suggested this was a team determined to return to winning ways after their midweek disappointment.
The new strike pairing of Shaw and Jason Gilchrist combined less than two minutes into the game, with Shaw’s flick latched onto by Gilchrist, whose superb lob dropped just past the post and into the side netting.
The Mariners went close again when Josh Gillies whipped in a corner from the right and Gary Brown directed it goalwards, but home goalkeeper Jonathan Stewart was able to push away his header.
Shields produced some bright moments in the first half, but were unable to find a way past Stewart.
He narrowly won a race with Gilchrist for a loose ball after a lofted pass by Briggs, with the striker having been destined to score had he got there first.
Matlock launched a swift break and threatened to get in behind when the ball was slipped through towards Marshall, but Brown was alert to the danger and made a vital interception.
Shaw and Gillies both went close for Shields with deflected efforts which went wide, while at the other end, a brace of free-kicks from the dangerous Daniel Bramall flew narrowly wide, although goalkeeper Myles Boney appeared to have both of them covered.
The best chance of the half came from the last action of it after Shields played a short corner on the left.
The ball was eventually swung in and met by the head of Dillon Morse before hitting the top of the bar and bouncing out to Gilchrist, who hammered a volley just over the top.
The Mariners will have been satisfied with their first half performance but mindful of the need to convert their possession, territory and chances into goals. They did not have to wait too long to do just that after the break.
Less than a minute into the second half, the breakthrough arrived in stunning fashion.
Adam Thurston did superbly on the right to put Matlock under pressure before sending in a cross which was headed out as far as Shaw on the edge of the box. The captain kept his eye on the ball and watched it onto his right foot before rifling a terrific volley into the bottom corner, with the power on the strike giving Stewart no chance.
Shaw revelled in the goal as he rolled back the years and showed the striker’s instincts which saw him have such success in that position with the likes of Gateshead, Burton Albion and Luton Town before switching to central defence with Shields.
Another acrobatic effort from the skipper came in the 56th minute as he got on the end of a long throw from Brown, but this time a defender was in the way to block and clear the danger.
Shields did strike again before the hour, though, and again Thurston was at the heart of it as he drove at the Matlock defence from the right before being bundled over in the area.
Briggs took the ball and made no mistake from the spot with a sweet strike into Stewart’s bottom left corner to extend the Mariners’ advantage.
Matlock were attempting to protect their unbeaten start to the season and showed great fight in the closing stages as they tried to force their way back into the game.
The lively Bramall had a shot deflected wide after cutting inside from the left before the hosts halved the deficit with a move which originated on the same flank.
The ball was eventually played into Marshall who after receiving it with his back to goal, turned well and fired it past Boney from 12 yards to set up a grandstand finish.
Shields did well to largely restrict the home side’s opportunities in the final 15 minutes despite a flurry of deliveries into the penalty area.
They could have made the points safe at the other end, with Shaw going closest as he got on the end of a fine move before pulling the trigger on the inside-right of the area and seeing the ball whistle just wide.
Shaw ended the game back in defence as the Mariners defended their lead, and the best chance for an equaliser fell to Matlock’s goalkeeper Stewart after he came forward for a corner in stoppage time. The ball fell to him 12 yards out and it was a presentable opportunity, but he blazed high and wide with his weaker foot.
Shields effectively saw the game out to take their tally to 13 points from their first six league matches heading into next Saturday’s encounter with second-placed Basford United at Mariners Park.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Boney, Hunter, Adams, Turnbull, Morse, Brown, Thurston, Briggs (Baxter 83), Gilchrist (Annear 67), Gillies (Mason 64), Shaw (c). Subs not used: Charlton, Alli.
Goals: Shaw (46), Briggs (pen 59).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.