By Daniel Prince
South Shields went down 2-1 at Northallerton Town in a tight Ebac Northern League Division Two game on Wednesday.
The Mariners took the lead early on through David Molloy’s terrific goal, which was the forward’s fourth strike in two games.
However, the home side hit back, and enjoyed the better of the first half.
They went in at half-time 2-1 ahead after a goal by Aaron Ramsbottom and a penalty by Colin Anderson, which looked like a dubious decision.
Shields improved after the break, but after some early opportunities, were just not able to create enough chances to force an equaliser.
The Mariners went into the game without a number of their squad, with Lee Maitland and Aron Burn out injured, while Kyle Houshby and David Halliday were among the players missing due to work commitments.
They came under some early pressure when a corner was swung into the area in the second minute, but the ball bounced kindly in the six-yard box and goalkeeper Brett Wilson was able to claim it.
Shields reacted strongly to that, though, with Abu Salim making inroads down the right.
The away side’s first foray forward led to Salim dribbling inside from the right and dragging a shot wide.
On seven minutes, he did well on the halfway line to win the ball before charging down the right flank, and it took a good interception to prevent his cross finding Stephen Ramsey.
The Mariners were playing promisingly, and in the 11th minute, they took the lead.
Chris Feasey rolled a free-kick from just inside the Northallerton half to the feet of Molloy, who had his back to goal on the edge of the box.
He showed his strength to turn his marker, before firing a glorious shot into the top corner to pick up where he left off on Saturday, when he scored a hat-trick in a 4-0 win over Brandon United.
Shields were under pressure for much of the rest of the half, with Ramsey almost scoring an own goal on 14 minutes, but his touch went just wide after a ball was looped into the box.
The resulting corner led to a header by Anderson, which was straight down Wilson’s throat.
Wilson produced an excellent save two minutes later after a period of home dominance, with the ball eventually falling to Daniel McLachlan at the far post. The powerful shot from the Northallerton midfielder was tipped over the bar.
Wilson did well to hold on to a low effort from James Muir soon after, with the Northallerton man’s free-kick bouncing just in front of the goalkeeper.
The hosts did get their leveller on 24 minutes, not long after Wilson had kept out a Lee Farrington drive.
A ball over the top found Martin Butterworth on the left, and his low cross was met by Aaron Ramsbottom, who nipped in front of the defenders to nudge the ball home.
On 29 minutes, Anderson almost gave Northallerton the lead after cutting in from the left, with his shot across goal cannoning off the post before bouncing to safety.
Shields were struggling to make an impact at the other end, but Andy Renton headed wide from a Graham Stephenson cross 12 minutes before half-time.
Anderson failed to convert a header for the home side soon after, while Salim headed one wide at the other end after a cross from Barrie Smith.
Colin White could have put Shields back into the lead two minutes before the break, but after Feasey’s corner dropped to him in the box, he just could not stretch enough to divert it past home goalkeeper Matthew Calvert.
With the clock ticking into stoppage time, Northallerton got the penalty which would ultimately decide the game.
White was adjudged to have fouled his man just inside the box, although the Shields defender had seemingly nudged the ball away before making any contact, which appeared minimal.
Wilson almost saved Anderson’s spot-kick after getting strong contact on the low effort, but it struck the post before trickling across the line to give Northallerton a half-time lead.
Shields lost captain Smith at half-time due to work commitments, with Barry Marshall coming on to take his place. Marshall took Stephenson’s place at right-back, with the latter pushing into midfield.
Molloy almost brought the Mariners level within a minute of the restart after Ramsey found him with a flick. However, after Molloy had rounded the goalkeeper, the angle was tight, and he could only divert his effort into the side netting.
Meanwhile, Chris Locke – who had an excellent game in the centre of Shields’ defence – did brilliantly to cut out a swift Northallerton move, tackling Anderson as he was running through on goal.
On 49 minutes, Ross Teasdale could have given the home side the lead, but he was unable to get clean contact on what would have been a free header from a corner.
Ramsey had a good chance for Shields six minutes later, but after a ball in from Feasey on the right, the striker’s free header was sent wide after he was unable to get good contact.
Stephenson had perhaps Shields’ best chance of the second half after Molloy’s mis-hit went straight into his path inside the box, but his low shot was straight at the goalkeeper.
At the other end, Wilson again did well to hold on to a dipping half-volley from Anderson, while Feasey sent a 30-yarder over the bar for the Mariners.
Renton and Talbot saw efforts from distance easily saved, but Shields did have one good chance to get a point as the clock struck 90 minutes.
Molloy’s cut-back from the right looked to be heading perfectly into the path of White on the edge of the box, but the Northallerton defender got the touch first, sending the ball cannoning off White before it looped not far over the bar.
Shields had been improved in the second half, and although they were unable to create as many chances as they would have liked, may have felt they were worthy of a point.
They are next in action on Saturday, as Darlington RA visit Peterlee for a league fixture.
NORTHALLERTON TOWN: Calvert, Andrew Ramsbottom, Muir, Teasdale, Newall, Elgie (c), McLachlan (Hardy 67), Butterworth, Anderson (Kokes 76), Aaron Ramsbottom, Farrington (Stephenson 67). Subs not used: Palmer, Perry.
Goals: Aaron Ramsbottom (24), Anderson (pen 45+1).
SOUTH SHIELDS: Wilson, Stephenson, Feasey, Locke, White, Talbot, Salim, Smith (c) (Marshall 46), Ramsey, Molloy, Renton. Subs not used: Conroy, Bell.
Goal: Molloy (11).
Booked: Salim, White.