South Shields 3 VS 3 Bamber Bridge
South Shields’ 100% record at home in the league was brought to a dramatic end as Bamber Bridge came from 3-1 down to snatch a point.
The Mariners were not at their best in blustery conditions but looked set to seal maximum points when goals from Nathan Lowe, Jon Shaw and Robert Briggs put them 3-1 ahead.
They held that two-goal lead heading into the final 10 minutes, but two goals in three minutes from gutsy Brig earned them a share of the spoils.
The result saw Shields stay second in the Evo-Stik Premier Division on a day which for long spells they looked likely to clamber back to the top.
They enjoyed the ideal start, taking the lead after less than two minutes when Briggs dinked a ball forward which was headed as far as the feet of Lowe, who drilled a left-foot effort into the bottom corner.
Shields created most of the goalscoring opportunities in the first half and almost doubled their lead in the 12th minute when Craig Baxter delivered a teasing ball from the right which was met by the head of Briggs, but visiting goalkeeper Lloyd Rigby brilliantly kicked away his effort.
Although they enjoyed much of the possession and territory, it was not until later in the half that the Mariners really began to assert their dominance.
Four minutes before half-time, a free-kick from deep on the left by Josh Gillies just evaded a touch and bounced narrowly past the woodwork.
Baxter was next to go close as he fired not far wide from the edge of the box, while Briggs was kept off the scoresheet by a fine block and then save as the pressure started to mount.
It finally paid off on the 45 minute mark when a Gillies corner from the left was headed against the bar by Briggs before the loose ball fell to Shaw, who rifled it into the roof of the net to double the home side’s advantage.
Shields continued to have much of the play at the start of the second half, with Gillies narrowly failing to convert a cross from Blair Adams and a further tremendous ball from Adams being headed over by Briggs.
Brig then burst into life, though, and Mariners goalkeeper Liam Connell had to be alert to push a header by Alistair Waddecar wide after a superb ball in from Matthew Dudley.
The visitors were offered a route back into the game just after the hour mark when Lowe was penalised for a foul on Waddecar, and the same player stepped up to beat Connell from the penalty spot and half the deficit.
Luke Daly was introduced from the bench for his Shields debut after that blow, and he impressed with a tidy and industrious performance.
It looked near-certain that he would end up on the winning side when, after Gillies was fouled in the area, Briggs rattled in a penalty to restore the Mariners’ two-goal advantage.
The points were almost made safe just a minute later as David Foley was played in on the inside-left of the box, but a tremendous save from Rigby denied him and Brig managed to hack the ball clear.
It proved to be an important stop by Rigby as his side battled back to earn a point in the final 10 minutes.
They pulled one goal back after a well-worked move down the right which resulted in Chris Marlow slotting in from close range.
Less than three minutes later, they were level as a corner from the right dropped onto the head of Matt Lawlor and he looped the ball into the bottom corner to silence the home support.
It almost turned into a real nightmare for the Mariners two minutes from the end when a Bamber Bridge counter-attack led to Marlow being played in on goal, but he dragged his effort wide as the hosts breathed a sigh of relief.
One final piece of drama arrived in stoppage time as Shields substitute Gavin Cogdon went down under a challenge in the area, but the referee waved away his penalty appeal and the teams had to settle for a draw.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Adams, Shaw (c), Brown, Turnbull, Mouanda (Daly 66), Lowe (Harmison 90+1), Foley (Cogdon 76), Briggs, Gillies. Subs not used: Morse, Lough.
Goals: Lowe (2), Shaw (45), Briggs (pen 73).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.