South Shields 2 VS 2 Trafford
South Shields conceded a stoppage time equaliser as Trafford came from two goals down to claim a 2-2 draw at Mariners Park.
A first half stunner from Robert Briggs and a 69th minute strike by Carl Finnigan had put the table-topping Mariners into a commanding position in their final home game of 2017.
However, the Manchester-based side pulled a goal back thanks to a superb hit by Louis Corrigan, and then levelled things up a minute into stoppage time when substitute Mark Derbyshire bundled the ball home.
Shields were left frustrated after dominating most of the possession and chances, as their lead at the top of the Evo-Stik North Division was reduced to four points.
The Mariners came through a difficult test away to Trafford on the opening day of the season, recovering from a one-goal deficit to win 2-1.
This time, though, they were on top from the start as they attempted to put some early pressure on their visitors.
Graeme Armstrong hit an effort wide within the first two minutes, while long-distance drives from Briggs and Finnigan went close. Briggs' effort was well held by Trafford goalkeeper Grant Shenton, and Finnigan's went not far past the post.
The next period of the game was one of frustration for Shields as they held the ball well but were unable to break through the defence, with their final pass not quite as sharp as required.
But then, 10 minutes before half-time, a moment of inspiration from Briggs saw the deadlock broken.
He collected the ball 25 yards out and then sent it swinging into the top corner, leaving Shenton with no chance as he netted his sixth goal of the season.
Briggs then nearly smashed home another special as his long-range free-kick came back off the post.
Shields cranked up the pressure in the closing stages of the half as they tried to double their lead, with Jamie Holmes the next to go close as he weaved his way through from the left before seeing Shenton beat away his shot. Dillon Morse headed over from the corner which followed.
Shenton was again key to keeping Trafford just a goal behind as the first half ticked into stoppage time as he excellently tipped over a cracking effort by Matty Pattison which was destined to find the roof of the net.
Shields will have been confident of adding to their goal tally after half-time, and went close within three minutes of the restart when a good move led to a lay-off by Armstrong to Craig Baxter, who fired narrowly over.
Finnigan also had two decent efforts as he first hit a shot wide after a cross by Pattison, and then saw a shot pushed past the post by Shenton after another flowing move.
Trafford almost got back on level terms, though, shortly after the hour mark when Jack Dorney tested Liam Connell with a powerful drive which the Shields goalkeeper did well to tip over.
The Mariners pressed on after that, and Julio Arca almost had a perfect introduction from the bench after being brought on in the 64th minute.
His first involvement saw him launch a superb run through the centre before his low shot was well saved by Shenton.
Shenton was beaten for a second time just five minutes later, though, as Finnigan drove inside from the right before picking out the bottom corner as he scored for the 17th time this season.
Trafford got a route back into the game 17 minutes from the end as a long ball forward saw Corrigan get in behind on the left, and he fired home a stunning effort from just outside the box.
Shields were still the team in the ascendancy, and had opportunities to kill the match off.
Pattison hit a shot into the side netting, substitute Gavin Cogdon was denied by a fine save from close range and Briggs had a header blocked in one frantic period.
Shenton also did well to keep out a low effort from Pattison as he got in behind on the right, but with Shields continuing to dominate possession, it looked likely they would see the game out to claim maximum points.
Trafford became frustrated in the closing stages, and a number of late challenges enraged much of the Mariners Park crowd of 1,461.
However, the visitors were to have the final say as they launched a counter-attack down the right a minute into stoppage time, and when a cross was flicked on, Derbyshire was on hand to nudge the ball home.
Shields tried to pick themselves up and force a winner, but it was not to be as they dropped their first points at home this season.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Connell, Baxter, Lough, Shaw (c), Morse, Briggs, Pattison, Smith (Arca 64), Armstrong (Cogdon 69), Finnigan, Holmes. Subs not used: Storey, Callaghan, Richardson.
Goals: Briggs (35), Finnigan (69).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot.