South Shields 1 VS 1 Buxton
A terrific goalkeeping display by Buxton’s Theo Roberts thwarted South Shields as their title hopes suffered a setback.
The Mariners were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw, with Roberts making a string of superb saves late in the game to earn his side a share of the spoils.
Lee Mason had given Shields the lead early on, but a header from Nico De Girolamo cancelled it out.
The Mariners enjoyed much of the possession and territory but Buxton proved difficult to break down until the closing stages, when Roberts repelled everything which came his way.
Shields were left to reflect on a performance full of promise, but were left frustrated by their inability to take maximum points.
They were on top from early in the game and Mason thought he had put them ahead in the eighth minute when he slid in a pass from Nathan Lowe, but the flag was up for offside.
Just four minutes later, Mason did break the deadlock when an effort from 20 yards from Lowe was deflected into his path and he worked the ball onto his left foot before drilling it into the bottom corner for his 11th goal of the season.
Buxton equalised in the 20th minute when a corner from the left by Brad Grayson was met by a towering header from De Girolamo which found the net.
The visitors were inches away from taking the lead as Jude Oyibo got in behind on the left of the area and squared the ball for Liam Hardy, who was unable to divert it home from point-blank range.
Shields recovered from their shaky period with a spell of dominance towards the end of the first half, but were unable to go back in front.
Luke Daly went close when he shot wide under pressure after a ball from Mason, while another big opportunity came and went when Blair Adams' cross was headed wide by Connor Bell.
Shields were creating chances well and almost made it 2-1 as a pass from Lowe split the defence and played in Robert Briggs on the inside right of the box, but he was denied by the legs of Roberts.
Bell also saw an effort saved by Roberts after an impressive turn in the area, while Daly skewed a further shot wide from the edge of the box as the Mariners cranked up the pressure.
Goalkeeper Liam Connell had to be alert at the other end, though, and was on hand to make a smart stop at his near post from Hardy a minute before half-time.
Shields continued to create chances in the second half and had a golden opportunity when Briggs won the ball well in midfield and forced it through to Mason, whose shot was beaten away by Roberts.
Roberts was finally beaten for a second time on 56 minutes when a clipped pass from Lowe fell to the feet of Bell, but his effort smashed against the post as Buxton breathed a sigh of relief.
A free-kick from the left by Lowe soon after evaded everyone before Roberts tipped it wide, and Shields continued to be frustrated as a series of blocks denied them.
Roberts was beaten again by substitute Josh Gillies as he hooked a shot goalwards, but he too was kept off the scoresheet by the post as the frustration grew for the hosts.
Briggs whipped an effort wide from distance before two more golden chances, with Gillies and Jon Shaw both played in on goal in separate incidents.
Gillies was denied by a block and Shaw saw his shot saved by Roberts, though, as Buxton continued to hold on.
Roberts saved his best until stoppage time with two outstanding saves.
The first was from Ben Harmison as the Shields substitute headed a Gillies free-kick seemingly into the net, but the goalkeeper somehow sprawled to tip it onto the bar before the ball bounced to safety.
The final act came six minutes into stoppage time when Briggs produced a moment of inspiration with a brilliant piledriver from distance which was destined for the top corner, but Roberts produced an incredible leap to produce a fingertip save and deny Shields what would have been a vital win.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Adams, Shaw (c), Morse, Turnbull, Daly (Harmison 78), Briggs, Mason (Foley 68), Lowe, Bell (Gillies 73). Subs not used: Lough, Mouanda.
Goal: Mason (12).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.