South Shields 3 VS 2 Scarborough Athletic
Luke Daly scored the winning goal with the last kick of the game as South Shields stayed in the title race with a 3-2 win over Scarborough Athletic on a pulsating afternoon at Mariners Park.
The Mariners had let a two-goal half-time lead – handed to them by a brilliant brace from Lee Mason – slip as play-off chasers Scarborough battled back in the second half.
But with Boro seeking a third goal which would have kept them in contention for the play-offs, they sent goalkeeper Tommy Taylor forward for a stoppage time corner which Shields countered from and scored, with Daly picking the perfect time to net his first goal for the club.
The result saw Shields climb above Warrington Town into second in the Evo-Stik Premier Division table, three points behind leaders Farsley Celtic heading into Saturday’s trip to Gainsborough Trinity, their final match of the season.
The Mariners were backed by their highest crowd of the season, with over 2,000 packing into Mariners Park.
The hosts started on the front foot and zipped the ball about well, with Jon Shaw sending an early header wide and Gavin Cogdon firing a shot into the hands of Taylor after a ball through by Daly.
Shields almost took the lead in the 20th minute when Blair Adams hit an effort which was pushed out by Taylor to the feet of Josh Gillies, but the ball came to him too quickly and ricocheted against his foot before being cleared.
Scarborough fired a warning of their own as they countered and Michael Coulson pulled a shot not far wide from the right of the area.
Midway through the first half, the breakthrough arrived for the Mariners.
Gillies raced away down the right flank and delivered a superb cross onto the right foot of Mason, who steered it home on the volley to score his 13th goal of the season.
Number 14 arrived just eight minutes later after a prolonged spell of Shields dominance which had seen Shaw and Robert Briggs both come close to doubling the lead.
Cogdon pressured Taylor into a hurried clearance and his miscue fell to Mason, who steered a terrific first-time effort into the net from 35 yards as the Mariners were rewarded for an excellent opening half-hour.
They could have made it three on the stroke of half-time, but after driving at the Scarborough defence, Gillies dragged a shot wide.
The Mariners picked up where they left off in the second half and looked certain to score when Gillies raced through on goal, but Taylor closed the angle well to make the save.
Scarborough gave themselves a foothold in the game when the prolific James Walshaw rifled the ball home from the edge of the box to half the deficit.
Boro were visibly lifted by the goal, although the big home crowd was given a lift when Carl Finnigan was introduced from the bench for his first appearance since sustaining an ankle injury in January.
Finnigan made an immediate impact as he played Daly in on goal, but he was denied his first goal for Shields by a superb fingertip stop by Taylor.
Liam Connell made a similarly impressive save soon after at the other end as he tipped a free-kick by Ryan Watson over the bar.
Scarborough were awarded a penalty with 14 minutes remaining following a foul in the box, and Walshaw looked to have given Shields’ title hopes a dagger blow when he rolled the spot-kick home.
He almost made it a hat-trick within two minutes of the equaliser, but his flick cleared the crossbar.
Shields gathered some momentum in the closing stages and Craig Baxter was inches away from giving them the lead in the 90th minute as his 20 yard effort flashed past the post.
They had to wait until the final kick for the vital breakthrough, and what a moment it was.
With Taylor racing back to his goal after going up for a corner, the referee played advantage following a foul on Connor Bell on the halfway line.
Daly picked up the loose ball and brilliantly flicked it past his nearest opponent before dribbling towards the goal-line and finishing from close range to create pandemonium at Mariners Park.
Shields’ title hopes were kept alive – in the most dramatic of circumstances.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Adams, Shaw (c), Morse, Turnbull, Daly, Briggs, Cogdon (Finnigan 64), Mason (Bell 68), Gillies (Foley 78). Subs not used: Brown, Mouanda.
Goals: Mason (22, 30), Daly (90+5).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.